September 10, 2002

Wired's cover story on Sky Dayton

Wired's cover story this month is about Sky Dayton and Boingo. It's got the usual fare about WiFi, how it is going to change the world, and how Dayton is poised to capitalize on it.  At the same time, it points out the challenges:
The trouble with the Hot Spot plan: It assumes that the students, bohemians, and cubicle dwellers who hang at the local Java Hut will shell out $75 a month, or even the $7.95 onetime connect fee. At that price point, Boingo is likely to attract only the wealthiest of m-workers — few of whom spend time discussing Hobbes' Leviathan over cappuccino and a maple-nut scone.
Sputnik is mentioned as a competitor, even though we aren't in that business.  Hey, any press is good press, I guess.

September 3, 2002

TI reveals new low power WiFi chipset

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the release today of Texas Instruments' latest WiFi chip, the TNETW1100B.  According to TI, it will consume on average one-tenth the power of existing WiFi chips, and it is half the size.  This is expected to increase battery life for PDAs as much as 25 percent.  To be specific, the energy reduction is down to 2 mW during standby mode. 

Most interesting about this product release is it signals the coming convergence of corporate PBX systems with cell phones.  Equip a corporate PBX system with VoIP over WiFi, and allow it to seamlessly roam to cellular networks when it is out of range of the corporate network, and you've got (a) a single device you can carry around with you that has one phone number, and (b) no cellular charges when you're within range of the corporate LAN.  This is an innovation that may not come from most of the the cellular incumbents, but I believe that an opportunity is brewing for the first carrier that does embrace the model - namely, huge corporate deals that will finally allow the carriers to break into the enterprise market.

Thanks to Sameer Verma for the link!
Posted by dsifry at 7:36 PM | TrackBack | View blog reactions

Wireless chaff

Black Alchemy has just released Fake AP, a set of perl scripts that allow a Linux box with 802.11b card to spew out thousands of fake 802.11b beacon frames.  Essentially, this is a wireless form of chaff, a common military defensive weapon that succeeds by fooling an attacker to attack a fake target.

Of course, this may give common tools like AirSnort and NetStumbler a headache, but still does not stop a determined attacker - as long as someone is legitimately using the real AP, their packets (with the correct SSID) will appear in a statistically significant sample of packets. 

Still, it may be a useful part of a multi-tiered security model, as described in my last entry.  It will certainly deflect most script kiddies and other people driving by just cruising for a connection.  But then again, why not just give those guests limited access to your net from the start?
Posted by dsifry at 3:36 PM | TrackBack | View blog reactions

Computer Security, Bruce Schneier, wireless networks

The Atlantic has an excellent article by Charles Mann on issues surrounding computer security - and about security overall.  There is lots of good commentary throughout from one of the gurus of computer security, Bruce Schneier, author of Applied Cryptography and founder of Counterpane Internet Security

This is especially relevant in the context of the furor surrounding the security of wireless networks.  With all of the hubbub surrounding the crack of RC4 and WEP, and security questions surrounding 802.1x, there has been a scramble to find technological solutions to the problems introduced; namely that a determined attacker could hack into or listen in on a WEP-encrypted network with a few hours worth of data received from the access point, not to mention that most APs today are severely mis-configured out-of-the-box with regards to security. 

Schneier is one of the finest security analysts of our time, His monthly crypto-gram newsletter is required reading for anyone who is interested in network and computer security.  His book Secrets and Lies is a great introduction to these issues for the layman.  When I was designing Sputnik's security and management features, I found myself again and again thinking about his rational approach to creating systems that fail gracefully.  Some guidelines:
  1. The network is fundamentally insecure
  2. There is no such thing as 100% security
  3. Create systems that fail gracefully
  4. Ensure that systems do not fail catastrophically (e.g. SeaTac in the article)
  5. Design security in depth
  6. Remember the humans in the loop
  7. There is always a tradeoff between security and flexibility
  8. Give users and administrators a choice when making that tradeoff
  9. Do your best to make it secure out-of-the-box
Here's an excellent quote by Schneier from the article:
"The trick is to remember that technology can't save you…. We know this in our own lives. We realize that there's no magic anti-burglary dust we can sprinkle on our cars to prevent them from being stolen. We know that car alarms don't offer much protection. The Club at best makes burglars steal the car next to you. For real safety we park on nice streets where people notice if somebody smashes the window. Or we park in garages, where somebody watches the car. In both cases people are the essential security element. You always build the system around people."
So, do we have to abandon our goal of perfect theoretical security?  Yes, I think so.  The more important goal is, "Does my system make it inconvenient enough for attackers that they attempt to attack via other means?", or "Does my system raise the cost of a successful attack high enough to be impractical?" and "Does my system make it easy for humans to monitor?"

Just some ramblings on the day after labor day...
Posted by dsifry at 3:03 PM | TrackBack | View blog reactions

WiFiMetro acquired by Ikano Communications

VentureWire reports on the disposition of HereUare's subsidiary, WiFiMetro:
SALT LAKE CITY -- Ikano Communications, a provider of Internet
networking infrastructure and private-label Internet services, said it
has purchased the wireless network and software of hereUare, a San Jose,
Calif.-based wireless Internet service provider, for an undisclosed
amount of cash.
Ikano will operate the network under the Hotspotzz name, utilizing a backend software solution called Spotzz for the network's access control, accounting and auditing functions, along with roaming services, according to Broadband Wireless Online.

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