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‘Instant-WLAN’ arrives from Netgear

Jul 12, 20042 mins
Cellular NetworksNetwork SecurityWi-Fi

* Keeping it simple on the road

You may have heard that Netgear recently launched a pocket-sized, 802.11g “wireless travel router” for about a hundred bucks. The WGR101 reportedly gives you Internet access by allowing you to create an “instant” wireless LAN, so long as there is a wired Ethernet connection in the room.

This sounds like a pretty useful gizmo. You just plug the thing into an Ethernet jack and suddenly you are locally mobile with a 54M-bit/sec WLAN connection. It is easy to see how this comes in handy if you are in a hotel or conference room at an industry trade show, for example, and need mobility for yourself and possibly others with whom you might be conducting a meeting. Caveat: You, of course, require a wireless NIC in your laptop.

While the device’s utility is simple, it seems to be equipped with a decent measure of security that doesn’t usually go with the “easy to use” stuff. Support for network address translation, or NAT, masks the “real” IP address of the device, translating one or more inside IP addresses into one universally unique IP address for routing across the Internet. By definition, this offers a measure of security by disguising the IP address of the actual devices (the router itself and the clients associated with it) to protect against spoofing.

The device also serves as a stateful firewall, filtering out packets based on information in the source network IP address header and determined by corporate policies set by your IT department. The router is reportedly transparent to the VPN tunnel you may already have set up (make that “should” have set up) between your client and your corporate RADIUS server.

The tiny wireless router enables you to suppress your Service Set Identifer, or SSID – the name of your wireless network – so poachers can’t automatically associate with your wireless connection and mooch off your broadband connection for free. The disappointment is that the Netgear WGR101 supports the old Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), not the more robust Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), though the subset of 802.11i security that has been out for about 18 months. The device is upgradable to WPA, however.