Enterprise IT Watch Blog

September 1, 2010  6:59 AM

CLEAR’s WiMAX is a bit foggy to me right now

Kevin Beaver Kevin Beaver Profile: Kevin Beaver

I was excited to find out last year that CLEAR’s WiMAX service was available in the metro-Atlanta area where I live and work. I proceeded to find out if they had coverage in my area and wah, wah, wah, they didn’t. A few months later, I came across CLEAR at a festival booth and got to speak with a couple of sales weasels about it. They told me that not only was the coverage in and around my area but they demonstrated just how fast the service is (it really was). They even told me they’d put me in touch with my local rep who could help me confirm that I would indeed have coverage where I needed it. I thought, okay, now we’re going somewhere.

Well, I heard back from their rep and he said,sorry, no coverage in your area. My immediate thought was, Go figure! I asked about future coverage and never heard back. Contacted the rep again – nothing. At this point, I started to realize that I probably didn’t want to do business with this company. If they aren’t responsive in the pre-sales cycle, what’s it going to be like once they’ve got me? I even contacted the company through their Web site to see what the deal was. Never heard back. It was probably a technical glitch on my end.

I was persistent because a technology such as this could really help me in my work, and allow me to drop my existing (and expensive) “tethering” option I have for my cell phone so I can get modem-like Internet coverage with it. In fact, WiMAX solves a lot of problems for a lot of people – especially in (to use that beloved marketing term) the “last mile” where service is often the most difficult to get. It’s fast – or fast enough – for most types of Internet usage. It’s supposedly reliable. And, with its end-to-end encryption and authentication, it’s pretty secure, at least for a while.

But my hopes for WiMAX have died off for now. The mutual lack of concern between CLEAR and myself has me stuck where I started. Back to DSL, EDGE, and 3G.

I can understand CLEAR not offering coverage in a highly-populated suburb of metro-Atlanta (okay, just kidding), but I can’t understand why they wouldn’t at least write back to say “We don’t want your business” or something like that. Like many other good technologies and ideas, it’s the people involved that often impede adoption if not make it go away altogether…and thus the cycle of slow Internet access continues.

Apparently I’m not the only one who’s had issues with CLEAR – something not uncommon for early adopters of an emerging technology. Just Google the terms CLEAR or Clearwire and you’ll see what I’m talking about. In CLEAR’s defense, given the technical complexities and – especially – the infrastructure needed to build out something of that scale, they’re certainly not going to please everyone. I remain hopeful that I can eventually get WiMAX service in my area, but I’m not holding my breath.

Kevin Beaver is an independent information security consultant, expert witness, author, and professional speaker with Atlanta-based Principle Logic, LLC and a contributor to the IT Watch Blog. He can be reached through his website at www.principlelogic.com.

August 31, 2010  1:33 PM

Snapshot 2010: Hotspots are not secure, free Wi-Fi coming to planes, and CWNP exam re-takes?!

Kevin Beaver Kevin Beaver Profile: Kevin Beaver

Here are a few wireless network-related stories I recently came across that piqued my interest – and will hopefully do the same for you:

Experts Warn That Public Wi-Fi Is Not Always Secure: Breaking news! Wireless Internet access that’s not under your direct control is risky. Fascinating. Yeah, we’ve known that for nearly a decade. I wrote about public Wi-Fi and why I’m not too crazy about using it last week in my discussion about KeyWiFi. I suppose the popularity of “free” Wi-Fi (Thanks, Starbucks!) is drawing out the masses and people need to be reminded of the dangers.

When Will Wi-Fi in the Sky Truly Take Off?: An airline technology consultant thinks we may see free Wi-Fi on airplanes as early as next year. Personally I’m not looking forward to everyone using the Internet on planes. We’re cramped in there enough…and bandwidth is already limited. Free Wi-Fi will just be another one of those annoyances that’ll encourage me to drive or stay home. I suspect it’ll go something like this: Wi-Fi on planes will be free until the airlines will realize their connections can’t handle the capacity. Either way, is the writing on the wall for Gogo?

Free 2nd shot voucher on all CWNP Exams from May 1 – August 31, 2010: So you failed a recent CWNP exam? Or, perhaps you’re thinking about taking a CWNP exam but you’re afraid you’re going to fail (I have heard they’re pretty difficult)? No worries, the great folks at CWNP, Inc. are offering up this safety net you can’t refuse. I don’t know if this is a sign of the economy, the level of experience of the people taking the exams, or just Kevin Sandlin realizing that the tests that Devin Akin wrote are just too darned difficult! Whatever the case, the CWNP program is a great program and worth checking out if wireless drives your career.

Kevin Beaver is an independent information security consultant, expert witness, author, and professional speaker with Atlanta-based Principle Logic, LLC and a contributor to the IT Watch Blog. He can be reached through his website at www.principlelogic.com.

August 31, 2010  6:30 AM

Keeping up with the Jones’ Wireless Network

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

Wondering what brands IT experts trust in the trenches of enterprise IT and at home? IT Knowledge Exchange members answered the call.

Mr. Denny uses AT&T’s U-verse offerings, a cable modem, router and WiFi all in one, while relying on Cisco’s WiFi Linksys and routers and switches at the office. Jinteik‘s been through the gamut at home, from D-Link and Aztech modems, D-Link switch, Netgear 3-in-1 and TPLink 3-in-1, but at the office he’s a Cisco switch guy. At home, Shanekearney daisy chained a 24-port Cisco 2950 switch to a Cisco DSL router, while dealing with a mixture of 3Com, Cisco, D-Link and Netgear at work. He’d rather work in an all Cisco environment since he knows the CMD line arguments already.

Monkez prefers SpeedTouch at home due to its ease of configuration, but he also recommends 3Com switches if bandwidth isn’t a major concern at home.

Asishqupta uses D-Link or Linksys (Cisco) at home and Cisco at the office. Carlosdl‘s company uses 3Com and Cisco.

Dvord2569, our winner of the 150 knowledge points, uses Linksys RVS4000 at home and hosts web/mail/etc. with it. His only complaint? The lack of support and documentation; it took him a while to track down a software update. At work he happily relied on WatchGuard Firebox x750e until software updates after 9.1 disabled the ability to easily provide proxy and filter reports. Dvord2569 quips, “Apparently WatchGuard subscribes to the M$ model of removing features as you ‘upgrade’ the product.” As a result, his latest buildout will be WatchGuard XTM 22 because “it simply provides all the features I need without bleeding me dry with subscriptions, being overpriced, or limiting the number of LAN nodes that can use it.” Thanks for such a thorough analysis, Dvord2569!

Yasirirfan is a Cisco man himself and recommends Linksys internet routers for SMBs. Learnteach is fortunate enough to have a Cisco partner at the enterprise level, providing his company with great support and discounts. He also likes Adtran and Juniper, but believes that Cisco performs superior on all fronts: training, knowledge base, troubleshooting help, SMB products, and support.

Mitrum wraps up a common sentiment: CISCO only.

Melanie Yarbrough is the assistant community editor at ITKnowledgeExchange.com. Follow her on Twitter or send her an email at Melanie@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.

August 30, 2010  3:32 PM

WIPS is better than WHOOPS

Kevin Beaver Kevin Beaver Profile: Kevin Beaver

AirMagnet recently released a whitepaper entitled Wireless Clients in the Crosshairs that delves into the subject of client-side vulnerabilities and wireless intrusion prevention systems (WIPS).

The paper focuses on one of the greatest problems we see with wireless networks, yet something that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. I like this line from the introduction: “wired security systems do little to protect against this over-the-air malicious traffic.” True, true – something that’s often overlooked. The paper goes on to say “the majority of Wi-Fi threats occur, and are only detectable, in the air, and the majority of evolving hacks and vulnerabilities revolve around end-user client devices, not enterprise APs.”

This is actually something I’ve seen over the years whereby the focus has been on the APs, similar to the original focus we had on firewalls when it came to network security. As wireless networks have matured, it’s no longer enough to focus on vulnerable or rogue APs alone. Instead, we have to look at everything, end to end.

The paper also covers the wireless hacking tools KARMA and MDK3 – both of which can spell bad news for your airwaves. Overall, the paper doesn’t take the same old approach to locking down the airwaves but instead talks about wireless network threats that we still have – even with all the fancy encryption and related security controls at our disposal – and how WIPS can lock things down once and for all. Definitely worth checking out.

Kevin Beaver is an independent information security consultant, expert witness, author, and professional speaker with Atlanta-based Principle Logic, LLC and a contributor to the IT Watch Blog. He can be reached through his website at www.principlelogic.com.

August 30, 2010  10:03 AM

Why IT always gets picked last at dodgeball

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

I’m reading through David Croslin’s Innovate the future: A Radical New Approach to IT Innovation, and it provides me with a better picture of how IT departments should fit into businesses versus how they actually fit in. I’m reading the book in a non-linear fashion, and today I’ve stumbled upon what Croslin refers to as the “Big Bang Cycle of IT.” Essentially it’s one big, inefficient pendulum that swings back and forth between centralized IT and decentralized IT. It seems IT is the odd man out in businesses, but why?

Croslin points a finger at the odd man himself, the IT department. Insert another “but why?” here. Well, if IT considers itself an integral part of the product delivery chain, which Croslin says it is, it should be acting like it: “It is the supplier’s responsibility to make sure the consumer understands what they are paying for and that the consumer is happy with the purchase.” In other words: Speak up for yourself!

Though the general connotation associated with IT is that it’s isolated work, troubleshooting and creating solutions in a locked, dark data center, that image is changing as budget concerns cause a dwindling of the IT population. As far back as 2004, IT World’s Siobhan McBride said that “[t]o survive this transformation, IT executives will need to be able to manage business processes and relationships, rather than focus on technical expertise.” But is IT any closer or better at managing business in addition to technical aspects?

Some tips from Croslin

1. Don’t be afraid of a little PR: Be aware of how the enterprise perceives your IT department and position yourself as an innovator.

2. A little more PR: What’s at the heart of PR? Why, spinning negatives into positives, of course! If there are inefficiencies in IT, document and communicate why they exist and how they can be improved. Rather than simply being the wet blanket, provide solutions to move forward and proof that you have the company’s best interest as your own. Are budget cuts and layoffs hindering your ability to provide innovative solutions? Document staff changes along with changes in productivity.

3. Remain indispensable: Worried about your department or specialty being outsourced? Make it an impossibility not only by providing better solutions and products, but also by making your indispensability evident.

Want to go more in-depth with Croslin’s advice for staying on top of your game in IT? You’re in luck: Innovate the Future: A Radical New Approach to IT Innovation is this week’s free IT book giveaway!

Melanie Yarbrough is the assistant community editor at ITKnowledgeExchange.com. Follow her on Twitter or send her an email at Melanie@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.

August 26, 2010  6:04 AM

WEP: Only one letter away from ‘weep’

Kevin Beaver Kevin Beaver Profile: Kevin Beaver

Having worked on both sides of the security assessment table, I’ve seen the challenges associated with reducing certain risks that show up on assessment reports. I’m a strong believer that unless – and until – there’s reasonable business justification for plugging a security hole, don’t waste time/effort/money doing so. The goal should be to fix the security problems that serve as the low hanging fruit first. Once you gain your momentum with information risk management and have the basics under control, then you can address the other – less pressing – concerns.

But what about Wired Equivalent Privacy, or WEP?

WEP encryption is low-hanging fruit, perhaps the lowest of the bunch. It’s implementation of encryption has had known exploits for nearly a decade. A decade! Yet time and again I see networks “protected” with WEP. Sure, many people with wireless networks aren’t even aware of the issues related to WEP. Home users, small business owners, enterprise employees, whatever – ignorance is no excuse. That is if you want to take reasonable steps to keep things locked down.

Of those who are aware of the weaknesses with WEP, I think the general perception is that only elite hackers with expensive tools can crack it. Not true, there are free tools and there are commercial tools. Both of which are very affordable and simple to use. Beyond that there’s the all-too-common fallacy: Even if the bad guys were to get in, we don’t have anything on our computers that they’d want. An awfully dangerous mindset, to say the least.

Like unencrypted laptops and mobile storage, I suspect we’ll continue to see WEP-based wireless networks for some time to come. What’s it really going to take to get people to buy into the dangers? Probably the passage of time and a few lessons learned the hard way.

Kevin Beaver is an independent information security consultant, keynote speaker, and expert witness with Principle Logic, LLC and a contributor to the IT Watch Blog.

August 25, 2010  1:21 PM

Oldie but goodie wireless security resources

Kevin Beaver Kevin Beaver Profile: Kevin Beaver

With any responsible wireless network deployment comes security. Securing the access points, securing the computers and securing the communication sessions in between. With enterprise APs, wireless IPSs and related systems well beyond their adolescence, many enterprises have used them to their advantage and have this wireless security thing down pat. But based on what I see in my security assessment work, there are easily just as many that don’t.

Here are a few of my wireless security tips I’ve written for TechTarget, my blog, etc. that can help you ensure you’re on the right track with wireless security … once and for all:

Wireless insecurities aren’t going away – but that’s OK

Locking down laptops that connect to hotspots

Do you really need a VPN for secure wireless LAN communications?

Mobile security: Setting responsible goals

Mobile security: Top oversights

How to (ethically) hack wireless networks (webcast)

Wireless security blog posts

Finally, check out my book that I co-authored with Peter Davis: Hacking Wireless Networks For Dummies. Peter and I wrote this book over five years ago yet 95% of the concepts, hacks, and hardening tips we cover still apply.

Here’s to secure Wi-Fi!

Kevin Beaver is an independent information security consultant, keynote speaker, and expert witness with Principle Logic, LLC and a contributor to the IT Watch Blog.

August 24, 2010  6:58 AM

Put him in, Coach: 802.11n is ready to play

Kevin Beaver Kevin Beaver Profile: Kevin Beaver

If you read the vendor press releases and marketing slicks, you’d think that 802.11n was the bomb. It’s faster, it’s more powerful – it even has more antennas for goodness sake! Shouldn’t that mean something to the average techie? Maybe so, but I’m just not seeing it.

The 802.11n draft has been out, for what, three years now and we’re approaching the one-year anniversary of the “final” amendment. But where is 802.11n? I’ve yet to see any of my clients deploy it. I’ve yet to see it at any Wi-Fi hotspots – including large hotspot deployments such as airports. I’ve yet to see it when driving around town. It’s just not out there. Maybe it’s just me not looking hard enough.

Better yet, maybe 802.11n is the Windows 7 of networking: Not a lot of market penetration just yet, but if we wait and see – it’s coming? Given how the market works, perhaps once existing a/b/g equipment is replaced in the future, 802.11n will be the only viable alternative. Who knows?

I suspect some larger enterprises, universities and businesses with a heavy reliance on Wi-Fi are rolling out 802.11n and loving it. I’m just not seeing it. What about you?

Kevin Beaver is an independent information security consultant, keynote speaker, and expert witness with Principle Logic, LLC and a contributor to the IT Watch Blog.

August 24, 2010  6:09 AM

Access Denied: 7 Steps to Crafting NAC Policy

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

There are many phases to creating a wireless network, from planning to deploying. But concerns for your network don’t end there; beyond initial set up and deployment is management and security. One of the big monsters in network security is the end user, so security and network management begin with securing and managing who has access to your network.

Determining the Placement of Your Network Access Control

When choosing a method for Network Access Control (NAC), consider the following:

1. Level of security:

  • User identity management versus just the computer’s identity.

2. Network infrastructure versus endpoint-based approach (server software on appliance v. network switch):

  • Network-based systems boast better centralized control, easily set enterprise standards, and NAC protection for remote users accessing the VPN.

3. Depth of network monitoring:

  • For endpoint security: Check PC at login only or continuously monitor the whole time it’s on the network?
  • Consider the lesser of two costs: NAC monitoring costs versus fix costs for malware or break-ins.

The most important part about crafting your NAC policy is Continued »

August 23, 2010  1:18 PM

How to unlock a hotspot near you

Kevin Beaver Kevin Beaver Profile: Kevin Beaver

Here’s an interesting wireless startup: KeyWifi. The company’s slogan and apparent mission is “Unlocking hotspots near you”. It’s actually a neat idea. It puts accessible and underutilized hotspots to good use and helps the world by creating “positive fiscal, social and environmental results”. The premise of their business model is join their system and supply hotspot access and/or join their system and rent hotspot access … all for a fee. If you’re a supplier and can get a few users on board your system, suddenly it’s paying for your Internet access. With users, it offers a way to get online without having to pay full price for broadband. Pretty cool.

I won’t be a supplier or a user because I know the bad things that certain – often “trusted” – people can do when using your Internet connection or examining your wireless network traffic. But for those who live more “openly” or are absolutely certain that their computers and communication sessions are locked down, I could see KeyWiFi working – especially where there’s not a Starbuck’s or McDonald’s around offering free Wi-Fi.

Certainly worth keeping an eye on.

Kevin Beaver is an independent information security consultant, keynote speaker, and expert witness with Principle Logic, LLC and a contributor to the IT Watch Blog.

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