Don't abandon using VPN for wireless security too soon

* Why sticking with VPN for wireless security might be best for the time being

Many people use VPN technology to overcome the past shortcomings of wireless security, and they might want to continue doing just that for a while.

The IEEE has approved a new standard for wireless security called 802.11i that is supposed to address the shortcomings of earlier standards, Wired Equivalent Protection (WEP) and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA).

Maybe 802.11i will succeed in its goals, but users should consider two things before abandoning plans to use VPN gear to protect traffic as it passes from laptops, through the air and onto wired networks.

First, the IEEE standard was approved just over a week ago so vendors will take a while to comply with it and ensure their gear is compatible with that of other vendors. In the meantime, it probably pays to hold off investing in the newly approved and currently untested standard.

Second, wireless security has had several false starts, with flaws being discovered, fixed and then new ones discovered. With its spotty track record, it might pay to wait a while to see how well this latest version stands up to real-world scrutiny.

For those who already have VPNs protecting their wireless networks and find it adequate, there's no real reason to change. The technology will continue to work just fine.

Those who don't want to bother with the expense of installing and maintaining VPN client software on wireless laptops may want to hold out for gear that supports the new standard. The 802.11i equipment will support wireless security by virtue of the wireless cards in the PCs.

Learn more about this topic

IEEE set to ratify 802.11i standard

IDG News Service, 06/23/04

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