The Cutting Edge of Improvements in Wireless Network Security

18th Oct 2001

Wayport Inc., a leading provider of high-speed Internet access in airports and hotels, has successfully completed a pilot of the new Microsoft Windows XP operating system and 802.1x using Wayport service at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac).

Drafted this year by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, 802.1x is a wireless standard supported by Microsoft Corp. in its new Windows XP operating system to provide enhanced security for users of Wi-Fi, or 802.11b wireless networks.

Wayport and Microsoft began the only public test of Windows XP and 802.1x in May 2001. Microsoft employees, using laptops with the Windows XP operating system, tested the features of 802.1x at Sea-Tac, where Wayport offers Wi-Fi wireless Internet access throughout all terminals and gates. The pilot ended successfully in mid-summer, assuring Microsoft that users of Windows XP will benefit from its support of 802.1x in the public space.

A standards-based solution for port-level authentication for any wired or wireless Ethernet client system, 802.1x heightens the security in wireless networks based on the Wi-Fi standard. While this standard is designed for wired Ethernet networks, it is applicable to Wi-Fi wireless LANs and leverages many of the security features used in the dial-up world. Specifically, Windows XP and 802.1x provide for zero configuration support, allowing a laptop with a wireless adapter card to automatically detect and connect to wireless access points within range. Now, business travelers will benefit from a faster and smoother connection.

Another important security enhancement for Windows XP users is that 802.1x solves security issues with the wired equivalency protocol (WEP), which provides authentication and encryption services for 802.11b networks. To provide a better mechanism for access control and security, 802.1x has a key management protocol built into its specification. Because this protocol provides keys automatically, users do not have to know their keys. For added security, keys can be changed rapidly at set intervals.


Another feature of the Windows XP and 802.1x combination is that it allows link layer authentication. This enables seamless authentication of users. Corporations can use their active directory or databank to automatically authenticate their employees to the system. By setting up authentication this way, companies will be able to take advantage of wireless services more quickly. Link layer authentication decreases implementation time for corporations, who can also manage the authentication themselves. Wayport offers Wi-Fi wireless Internet access throughout all terminals and gates at four airports including Seattle- Tacoma, Dallas/Fort Worth International, San Jose International and Austin-Bergstrom International. In addition, Wayport recently acquired nine Laptop Lane locations in six major airports featuring office conveniences such as wired high speed Internet connections, long distance capabilities, faxing, printing and private offices. The company also provides wired and wireless access at world-class hotel partners including Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Sonesta Hotels & Resorts, as well as MeriStar Hotels & Resorts, which manages hotels under well-known brands such as Hilton, Sheraton, Marriott, Westin, Radisson and Doubletree.



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