Wireless Risks: How To Avoid Common Pitfalls - InformationWeek

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Wireless Risks: How To Avoid Common Pitfalls

Building a wireless LAN infrastructure isn't cheap or without risk, but there are steps businesses can take to protect their investments and avoid potential problems.

1Make conservative investments. Although wireless equipment costs continue to decline, the technologies are still new and evolving. That means product life cycles tend to be short. Steve Novak, CIO at Kirkland & Ellis LLP, has set a policy for the global law firm to make incremental investments in emerging technology every few years instead of undertaking a big technology refresh every five to seven years, which has been the traditional approach to building corporate networks. The firm also looks for wireless products that can be centrally managed and easily upgraded with software.

2Know what you're buying. Despite tight IT budgets, businesses have a wasteful habit of buying more wireless LAN equipment than they need because they haven't fully researched what's included with the products they're buying, says Craig Mathias, an analyst at wireless consulting firm Farpoint Group. A common mistake is purchasing an intrusion-prevention system without realizing one is included as part of a wireless LAN product, Mathias says.

3Security is a top priority. Equipment should be compliant with the 802.11i standard for authenticating and encrypting wireless LANs. Enforce security policies, such as requiring hard-to-crack passwords and limiting the number of unsuccessful logins. Each laptop should have firewall software that's integrated with the primary corporate firewall. Mobile workers should use a VPN. To ease administration, consider buying security software that supports multiple functions. IPass Inc. offers client software that includes device authentication, patch management, and policy enforcement in a single interface.

Illustration by Campbell Laird

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