Gartner Warns of Wi-Fi Vulnerabilities

Wi-Fi's promise is also its Achilles Heel: It drastically lowers the barrier for both access and attack from both within and without.

One upshot of this, industry watchers say, is growing demand for WLAN intrusion prevention systems (IPS). This year, for example, WLAN IPS revenues are expected to reach $168 million -- a 41 percent uptick from 2007's tally. Sure, it's a drop in the bucket, at least compared to overall security (or network security, for that matter) spending, but it's nonetheless an area of red-hot growth.

That's the upshot of a new study from market research giant Gartner Inc., which -- citing several recent WLAN security exploits -- concludes that the WLANs of today comprise a "significant vulnerability" for enterprise IT organizations.

Gartner's Rx, not surprisingly, is a beefed-up intrusion prevention process that addresses both wired and wireless networks. "We believe that the initial sales of WLAN IPS products have penetrated the Global 5000 companies and government agencies who are early adopters of wireless technologies," said Gartner Vice President John Pescatore in a statement. "As the business-crucial use of WLANs and other wireless technologies continues to increase, the need for wireless security monitoring will grow as well."

Gartner cites a number of wireless security drivers -- including (interestingly) the proposed Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standards.

The situation is made more complicated by the rapid pace of WLAN adoption. Organizations have shifted -- if not overnight, then very quickly -- from reflexive opposition to WLANs to something just short of enthusiastic adoption.

As a result, IT's default security stance vis-à-vis wireless has itself changed. Where IT once focused on detecting and shutting down rogue wireless access points (WAP), it now focuses on detecting and patching misconfigured WAPs.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.