Stuck with WEP – will increasing key lengths help harden WLAN?

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I have potential security issues on my wireless LAN because my equipment is older and I can?t use WPA. I'm worried that my data is vulnerable. If I increase my WEP key length from 40 to 128 or greater, will this help?

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It will help, but only in a limited sense.

To get the most out of what you’ve got, visit (Center for Internet Security) and download a copy of their latest benchmark for wireless networks. I was a member of the team that developed it.

In a nutshell, here are the elements:
– Turn off SSID broadcasts
– Set the SSID to as long a random value as your oldest equipment permits
– Use a 128 bit random hex key (Alpha-numeric keys only offer about 2.5 bits of randomness per character)
– Adjust the transmit power to the lowest level that will work in your facility
– Use Pre-Shared keys for authentication (not to be confused with the encryption), again using as long a hex value as allowed by your equipment
– Consider MAC address filtering, depending on the number of systems in use (only workable for very small numbers)
– Distribute the encryption key and authentication keys by
physical media (Floppy or mini-cdrom) to make entering the keys by copy and paste to reduce entry errors.

– Develop and implement a plan to identify and inventory ALL wireless equipment, and then phase out the older equipment on a budgeted, scheduled basis.

– Tie all wireless networks to a VLAN which requires VPN authentication for further inbound access.

That should get you moving in the right direction.


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  • Bobkberg
    Some afterthoughts... - Limit the DHCP address range on any access point to the bare minimum that you can work with. - Consider directional antennas on systems close to the periphery of your building, so that the signal that does leak out is kept to a minimum. - Similarly, if you're in part of a multi-story, multi-tenant building, try to get antennas that do most of their radiating in a horizontal direction. - Do a walkabout with NetStumbler on the outside of the facility, checking for signal strength, and tweak the offending systems, or relocate them. - Get the book Wi-Foo by Vladimirov, Gavrilenko & Mikhailovsky (Addison-Wesley). Be forewarned that it's some heavy going, and very technical. Bob
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