02:16 PM

Microsoft Tests New Wi-Fi Security, Locator Tools

Microsoft is testing a to-be-released service that helps users find and manage wireless connections when using public hotspots. It also maps the location of available hotspots and provides driving directions to them.

Some Office 2007 beta testers have been offered a chance to try out a new Microsoft service that helps users find and manage wireless connections at public and private hotspots.

According to the blog, Microsoft has invited a small number of Office 2007 Beta 2 testers to try out Windows Live Connection Center Wi-Fi Beta, yet another addition to the burgeoning list of the services Microsoft dubs "Windows Live."

The new software-slash-service can automatically sniff out in-range hotspots and then link the computer to the Wi-Fi connection, as well as locate available access points using a Web site. The service also integrates with Windows Live Local to map the location of any hotspot and provide driving directions to it.

In addition, the beta provides built-in security via a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt communications between notebook and wireless access point. Public hotspots don't enable security -- to do so would lock out users -- making Wi-Fi at locales such as airports and coffee shops risky. The integrated VPN would block attackers and identity thieves from capturing in-the-clear wireless traffic that might include credit account information or enterprise network log-in credentials.

Office 2007, currently in Beta 2, is now scheduled to ship to most customers in what Microsoft's pegged as "early" 2007. The beta of Windows Live Connection Center Wi-Fi is scheduled to run through that same time frame.

Microsoft was not immediately available for comment or confirmation on the news of Connection Center Wi-Fi.

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