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Executive Editor

SonicWall’s wireless AP puzzles

Jun 08, 20042 mins
Cellular NetworksNetworkingSecurity

* What's the point of SonicWall's wireless access point?

SonicWall’s recent introduction of its wireless access point and wireless card renews focus on the fact that VPNs can be used to shore up security in wireless networks.

But the AP, called SonicPoint, is curious because it doesn’t do anything to enhance security beyond what a SonicWall software client on a wireless device and a SonicWall VPN gateway could have done anyway. The AP itself adds no security. From a security standpoint, any AP at all would serve as well.

While wireless security protocols – notably Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) – have been improved to be more secure, apparently that is not enough for some users. They prefer to use VPNs between wireless devices and the wired networks to which they seek to connect.

The idea to do so came out two years ago when WEP demonstrated security flaws and IPSec VPN vendors hustled to point out that their gear could slap a secure link right through the vulnerable access point, making WEP superfluous.

SonicPoint can be configured and managed via SonicWall’s Global Management System. Specifically, GMS can set radio parameters and encryption policies on SonicPoint, making it unnecessary to have a separate element management platform to handle them.

While there is nothing wrong with this, it is puzzling that SonicWall would offer its own AP when pretty much any one would do. The real security value of VPNs and wireless networking comes from the VPN client software and the gateways, which are SonicWall’s focus areas. SonicPoint may be of interest to customer buying wireless gear and VPN gear all at the same time and want to simplify management.

SonicPoint cost $645, and the wireless card costs $149.