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Five WLAN questions answered: WPS attacks, access control, and more

Even after a successful Wi-Fi network implementation, users are fraught with WLAN questions regarding access control and management. Do you have the answers?

So you've been hired to install a Wi-Fi network for your customer. You go with a WLAN implementation that sets them up for speed and potential growth. Installation goes quite smoothly, but a few months pass and suddenly they've got wireless LAN questions galore. Now they have considerations beyond implementation, such as wireless bandwidth management, access control and new kinds of attacks.

In this piece, SearchNetworking wireless expert Lisa A. Phifer answers five reader WLAN questions that go beyond basic network implementation, and delve a bit deeper into management concerns that plague network engineers.

WLAN question 1: Choosing between Wi-Fi and cellular for devices

Question: Many of our wireless devices can connect to either a cellular data network or to a Wi-Fi network. How do we make the cellular vs. Wi-Fi decision for connecting enterprise devices?

Expert Answer: Cellular (3G/4G) data networks are ideal for on-the-go connectivity over a wide area, such as when moving outdoors. However, we've all experienced weak cellular signal indoors, which can cause slow or dropped data connections. Although outdoor Wi-Fi networks are available in some areas, most Wi-Fi hotspots are designed to cover a well-defined indoor space, such as a hotel, conference center, airport or airplane.

As such, decisions about cellular vs. Wi-Fi depend first on location and mobility. Increasingly, we will connect wireless devices to both network types and we may even roam automatically between them. By default, most smartphones prefer using Wi-Fi, falling back to cellular only when Wi-Fi is disconnected.

READ THE REST OF THIS WLAN QUESTION ANSWERED.

WLAN question 2: Are corporate neighbors gaining unauthorized access?

Question: Does it matter if my corporate neighbor in a high density building is on my Wi-Fi network? Does it matter if my employees are connected to my neighbor's network with unauthorized network access?

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Expert Answer: In a nutshell: Yes, absolutely.

At the most fundamental level, using someone else's network without permission is theft of service. Although prosecution is rare, there have been cases where Wi-Fi "squatters" were charged and fined, and ignorance or lax controls are no defense.

READ THE REST OF THIS WLAN QUESTION ANSWERED.

WLAN question 3: How to attain simultaneous Wi-Fi and LAN connections

Question: I am having trouble with having Wi-Fi and LAN connections on the same computer.  I have a LAN that isn’t connected to the Internet along with Wi-Fi access to the Internet. When using XP, I used to be able to connect to my LAN to access my network hard drive while connected to the Internet by Wi-Fi.  Now, when using Windows 7, I can’t connect to the Internet while the LAN is connected. I have to switch back and forth.  Can you help with attaining simultaneous network connections?

Expert Answer: You should be able to have simultaneous network connections to two separate networks in Windows XP or Windows 7. The problem you are experiencing may be accidental or intentional.

If your two connections are in different subnets, each should serve as the route to any destination on that subnet, but only one will serve as your computer's default gateway for all other destinations (such as the Internet). 

READ THE REST OF THIS WLAN QUESTION ANSWERED.

WLAN question 4: How to avoid WPS attacks

Question: What steps should enterprise WLAN administrators take to protect their networks from the new Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) attack tools like Reaver and wpscrack now making headlines?

Expert Answer: The good news for large enterprises is that very few enterprise-grade access points implement the vulnerable Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) protocol which tools like Reaver and wpscrack try to exploit to gain unauthorized WLAN access. The bad news for SMBs and branch offices in large distributed enterprise networks is that up to one third of the 1500+ consumer-grade Wi-Fi router products now on the market could be vulnerable.

READ THE REST OF THIS WLAN QUESTION ANSWERED.

WLAN question 5: How to stay within data caps with bandwidth monitoring

Question: Given 3G and 4G bandwidth caps and new cloud content synchronization services like iCloud, how can wireless broadband data users conduct network bandwidth monitoring and avoid exceeding limits?

Expert Answer: Monitoring bandwidth usage has long been a challenge for wireless broadband users. Checking a carrier’s website to eyeball usage-to-date is hardly a real-time solution, and new cloud apps are boosting usage to record highs. For some users, the first indication that something is amiss is an unexpectedly big bill. Figuring out which app or setting is the culprit can be tough.

READ THE REST OF THIS WLAN QUESTION ANSWERED.

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