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How & Why Wireless Networks Can Be the Safer Solution

The transition from wired to wireless networks is happening across the business world, especially as the technology underpinning wireless advances. Besides the convenience factor, wireless is also increasingly preferred over wired networks due to the security benefits available through proper implementation. However, many IT departments and companies are unfamiliar with the security advantages of wireless, especially given its shaky reputation in the past. Here is what you need to know about the wireless of today and how it stacks up against wired networks.

SSID Availability Can Limit Your Network’s Attack Surface

Wireless imageWith many wireless networks, company owners and IT staff can offer scheduled availability on a per-SSID basis. This allows you to limit the attack surface exposed to unauthorized users and malicious hackers by turning off the SSID outside of specified hours.

Unlike wireless networks where this scheduled availability is very centrally managed, accomplishing the same thing in a wired network is considerably more complex.  And, if your wired network consists of switches from multiple vendors it may be nearly impossible.

Increased security for wireless networks is extremely important because it is not limited by physical access to the premises.  

802.1x Authentication Advantage

When you use Remote Authentication Dial In User Service (RADIUS) servers—which are typical for businesses—you gain a security advantage through 802.1x authentication. With wireless, 802.1x authentication can be assigned on a per SSID basis and provides the ability to grant and revoke wireless access on a per user basis.  With the common pre-shared key authentication all users know the password (pre-shared key) and if a user separates from the company ALL remaining users must re-configure their devices to utilize a new password.

802.1x authentication is also available with wired networks, but it’s infrequently used due to the  implementation complexities. 802.1x authentication is generally available on a port-by-port basis, requiring much more effort to set up and manage.

Traffic Shaping Is Easier

Administrators use shaping to and ensure essential business application traffic is prioritized. With wireless networks, the ability to shape traffic at the device, user, and SSID level provides granular control  Although assigning user profiles on wired networks is possible, it’s much more difficult and requires more time and effort to deploy and manage.

Encryption Is Easier With Wireless

With wireless networks, encryption is easier to implement and more necessary because the data is sent over the air and is subject to interception. The authentication process must be encrypted to protect credentials from unauthorized access.

Enterprise wireless networks support advanced encryption of the authentication process.  Many can also provide encryption of the data streams post authentication if desired. This type of end to end encryption is much more difficult to implement on wired networks.

Wireless is rapidly becoming the de facto connection method for many start ups. Security has progressed tremendously for wireless networks, and in the end a properly configured wireless network can even offer more security features than wired networks in addition to convenience and flexibility for users.