Before wireless networks were common, hackers needed to find a physical route into a company's systems. Even when that meant using a dial-in modem, the possible attack routes were limited by the available technology. The spread of wireless communications, however, has given malicious actors an unprecedented level of opportunity. When this consideration is paired with the fact that WLANs, wireless local area networks, often possess weaknesses in their approaches to IT security, this can be a recipe for disaster.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology has released new guidelines known as Special Publication 800-153 to help businesses meet the challenge of securing WLANs. "Employees can use mobile devices, including laptops and smart phones, connected to the WLAN to perform tasks that could be done on desktops, but with the freedom to work anywhere in the covered area," commented the organization. "While WLANs can improve productivity, they can add an additional security challenge. WLANs often have weaker configurations and authentication processes that make them vulnerable for attackers to penetrate and gain access to sensitive information."
The recommendations released urge businesses to have clear policies regarding client devices connecting to WLAN systems and specified that security controls that will automatically enforce such policies should also be embraced. In planning for the security of a WLAN, organizations should take care to think about how WLAN security provisions may affect other networks in use. For more information about securing a WLAN, contact a managed services provider to see how integrated remote monitoring can play a role in your overall IT support plans.