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Issue of December 2002 
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Wi-Fi getting new security standard

Major manufacturers of wireless networking products announced support for a new Wi-Fi security standard called WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access). WPA is aimed at business customers who want strong security according to the Wi-Fi Alliance.

Wi-Fi, also known as 802.11b, is a technology that allows the creation of wireless networks in a radius of around 300 feet. The main feature of the system is that laptops and PDA's configured for the technology can detect when their owners enter a Wi-Fi 'hot spot' and log on to the Internet.

WPA includes two new security measures. Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) which includes three improvements to replace the flawed Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) protocol. With Wi-Fi, data sent over the wireless network is encrypted, but sharing the keys that encrypt the information is a problem. TKIP scrambles the keys using a hashing algorithm and ensures the keys haven't been tampered with by adding integrity checking.

The second WPA-enforced addition is a way to authenticate users trying to log onto a network. Currently, access to a wireless network is regulated by using a hardware-specific serial number known as a Media Access Control (MAC) address. Every Ethernet card has one. The Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP) replaces the access restrictions based on MAC with one built on a far more secure public-key encryption system.

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