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1/20/2006
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Safeguarding Wireless Networks

Meru Networks' intrusion-prevention system scrambles radio-frequency signals carrying malicious code

Meru Networks Inc. plans to offer in April an intrusion-detection and -prevention system that secures wireless local area networks by scanning for intrusions at the radio-frequency signal layer.

Meru's Security Services Module scrambles the signals and jams the transmission of malicious code coming via rogue access points or other means, the company says. The system scans for threats without disrupting the network's ability to transmit data and voice packets.

The module is software-based and doesn't require hardware additions. Intrusion-detection and -prevention systems for wireless networks from other vendors often require an overlay of specialized sensors that scan radio-frequency signals for attacks. Meru's module, starting at $2,500, is designed to be affordable for small and medium-sized businesses.

Security is a top concern for businesses and organizations deploying or managing wireless networks, especially as they start adding new applications, such as voice over IP. Radio-frequency-level security can prevent intruders from listening to voice packets that travel over wireless networks or injecting bad packets that confuse the phone system and wreak havoc. "Voice, as well as video, will be the new applications," says Songwu Lu, a professor in the computer-science department at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has tested Meru's wireless access points and controller in his research and graduate courses. "Rogue access-point detection and location privacy is the key," he says.

The San Antonio Community Hospital uses Trapeze Networks Inc.'s RingMaster management software to monitor rogue access points on its wireless network. The 400,000-square-foot hospital has installed about 250 Trapeze access points, which use two radios: one for handling user traffic and the other for scanning. "It lets us know if there's any attempts to connect to our network with unauthorized equipment," says Irv Hoff, the hospital's manager of converged networks. "We now feel comfortable to deploy voice because we've locked down our wireless security."

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