WLAN also known as the Wireless Local Area Network is a wireless network. It connects two or more devices preferably computers to each other. It makes use of some modulation technology to link the two or more devices together. This technology is based on the foundation which enables contacts between the devices in a limited region or area. This is advantageous to the users as it provides the facility to move around in the area and still be connected to the network. The coverage of connectivity is within a wide area.
The process of building a WLAN is quite simple. WLANS can be established by fixing a device which in the technology terminology is known as the Access Point to a corner of the network which is wired. Customers communicate with the Access Point (AP) with the help of an adapter.
The experiments regarding the establishment of a connection between two devices were conducted in 1970 in the University of Hawaii. The radio wave amateurs developed the first data modems of the first generation in the 1980’s. This was commonly known as the Packet Radio by them. The first of the IEEE workshops were held in 1991 on the subject of Wireless WAN. At that time, the wireless products were newly introduced in the market.
At the time of the inception of the wireless LAN, the cost of the hardware was much high. Also, protocols were used for it. But later, in the early 1990’s, the protocols got replaced by standards of IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) 802.11.
Wireless LANS have evolved as a facility to the users. The biggest pro of a wireless LAN is the ease with which it can be installed. Also, since the technology is wireless, it saves the cost of installing wires and cables. In a survey conducted on millions of people, it was found that people prefer wireless networks over wired networks due to low costs. It is also becoming well-liked and accepted because of the upcoming standards.
One more major advantage of using wireless LANs is that it can provide the benefit of connectivity to many users at the same time without requiring a lot of wiring unlike wired networks which require extra cabling with the addition of new members.
Due to its popularity, hotspots (which provide wireless connectivity) have been developed all over which grant the continence of mobility to the clients. Public places like internet cafes, coffee shops and booths in malls have started to offer wireless connectivity to its customers.
Wi-Fi Protected Access:
WPA is known as the Wi-Fi Protected Access. It is a standard of interoperable, high quality security enhancements. The purpose of using a WPA is to increase the level of security of the Wi-Fi systems. It provides a high echelon of encryption and protection of data for the future systems. It is basically a certification which was created by the Wi-Fi Alliance. The certification is to signify the rules to conform to the security protocols and standards that have been developed by the alliance.
WPA2 is another implementation by the Wi-Fi Alliance. WPA2 looks after the essential elements of 802.11. For all new devices to have the WPA2 implementation, it is mandatory that they are under the trademark of the Wi-Fi.
Wi-Fi Network Security Threats:
One of the most important issues in the establishment of wireless LANs is that of security. It is very important to secure the network. Random clients with access to wireless connectivity are usually not allowed to join the LAN unless they are paying for the service.
Wireless LANS are built using the radio waves. These waves make the WLAN vulnerable to the hackers. Any hacker at any time can access the valuable information or worse, spoil the procedures of the WLANs. These security threats also affect the client in a manner that it impedes in the achievement of the desired goals and tasks.
It is also a fact that many WLANs do not implement any kind of reliable system of security. This enables random people to just access the network. This process of extracting information is known as Data Sniffing. It is found that the networks of the houses, offices and major companies are wide open for Data Sniffing.
In order to secure the networks many steps can be taken. Data encryption, authorization, authentication and monitoring are some of the ways to protect the data. In this project, data authentication is used. In data authentication the network asks for login username and password from its customers. Use of smart card is also a part of data authentication.
Many technologies today are available which increase the level of security in the WLANs. One such technology is the Wired Equivalent Privacy also called the WEP. The WEP is used on the 802.11 networks. It encrypts the body of each frame. This keeps the data sniffers (hackers) from viewing the sensitive information. Emails, user names, documents and passwords are kept form these hackers. But it has a con. The hackers are no amateurs and therefore after a day of careful observation of an active network they are able to break all the passwords and access the information they want to. Denial of Service attacks is another method by which the security threats to the WLANs can be avoided.
It has always remained a challenge to prevent the wireless LAN of the security threats. Until recently, homes, corporations and other business networks made use of the WEP technology. But the advancement of technology has blessed us with the WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Area) and WPA-2 technologies which work to avert the dangers hackers pose to the Wireless Networks.
The inception of WPA solved the problems clients/ users and customers were facing while using the WEP. WPA resolved the matter of weak headers which were encountered in WEP. These headers were known as the initialization vectors, IV. WPA provides a way of ensuring the integrity and wholeness of the messages passed through the Message Integrity Check (MIC). WPA makes use of the TKIP also called the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol to enhance the process of authentication by encryption of data.
The result of using WPA instead of the WEP is a secure security network system which is compatible with Wi-Fi equipment. No matter how many are the merits of using the WP”A, there still exists a possibility of many weaknesses which can be discovered any time.
In order to avoid the weaknesses of the WEP and the WPA altogether, Wi-Fi alliance came up with a system which is flawless of all the deign errors of the WEP technology. It is representative of an exemplary long term solution to the issue of security of Wireless LANs.
Dlaverty (2009) WPA vs. WPA2 (802.11i): How your Choice Affects your Wireless Network Security. http://www.openxtra.co.uk/articles/wpa-vs-80211i
Geier, Jim (2001). Wireless LANs. Sams; 2 edition
Geier, Jim (2002) Minimizing WLAN Security Threats. http://www.wi-fiplanet.com/tutorials/article.php/1457211
Janszen, Eric (2002) Understanding Basic WLAN Security Issues http://www.wi-fiplanet.com/tutorials/article.php/953561