Wi-Fi networks: Is the CIO wearing the emperor’s new clothes?

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As the economy continues to slow, CIOs are feeling the pinch to do more with less—cutting IT costs from every corner without reducing the services. If IT leaders trim their budgets wisely, the pain of tightening purse strings can actually lead to opportunities. Often untouched is the network piece of our infrastructure; in my view, it’s a window of opportunity, not just in terms of cost but agility as well.

 

Small and midsize businesses (and even some enterprises) use Wi-Fi networks exclusively as the means of providing connectivity to users. According to experts, the cost for deploying and managing a wireless network can be anywhere from 15-40 percent lower per employee versus wired alternatives for some companies; the savings potential can be as high as 70 percent, depending on the selection of providers and solutions.

 

There are a variety of reasons why Wi-Fi is not so popular among businesses. Many point to security concerns around Wi-Fi devices, and characterize their management and control as not being up to par. The other reasons are related to network speed. Wireless has been primary designed for individual consumption and not geared up to serve the large business community.

 

Usually the Wi-Fi network is vulnerable to attacks such as eavesdropping, MITM (Man in the Middle), peer-to-peer and exploiting the unintended client connection. These are not uncommon, and usually occur on public networks where data can be exploited by unscrupulous hackers waiting to pounce.

 

The following considerations can be used to improve wireless security:

 

  • Password-protected Wi-Fi: Although there are those who would argue that passwords make networks secure, there are tools such as Wireshark that can render Wi-Fi security useless.
  • Captive portals: Captive portals secure Wi-Fi networks for service providers, but do not secure the Wi-Fi user from attacks. This creates a false sense of security in users’ minds.
  • VPN: Though considered the safest form of protection, the grief it causes at times far outweighs the benefits it delivers. Also, it is vulnerable to exploitation as applications installed on PCs can enter into the corporate network. A motivated hacker can disrupt VPN on a Wi-Fi network and cause a lot of pain by forcing the user to browse without it.
  • SSL encryption: There are techniques such as SSLTRIP that can strip off SSL security. Most end-users would be hard-pressed to even notice it.

These “protections” are like the emperor who paraded before his subjects in his “new clothes”—until a child cried out, "But he isn't wearing anything at all!" Many of us read Hans Christian Andersen’s short tale of "The Emperor's New Clothes" in our childhood. The emperor indeed needs new clothes, and there are solutions on the market that can provide stronger Wi-Fi security. What we need is intelligent planning to build user experience through innovation. There are quite a few organizations that have come out with secured Wi-Fi networks that combine software and hardware protection for Wi-Fi networks while maintaining speedy performance. This makes a huge difference to those who would like to do more with less. With these products, we’ll increasing adoption of wireless networks over wired networks.

 

To me, cloud-controlled wireless access for small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) will be big explosion and become one of the key buzzwords in the coming months, perhaps creating a megatrend in infrastructure cost savings. In addition, the wireless networks provide agility by reducing the cycle time of implementation, along with cost savings.

 

Related links:

Server snafu or hacker? You should know.

The I in CIO stands for “innovation”

 

Currently a partner at CIO Specialist Advisory LLP, DD Mishra has more than 19 years of experience in IT. He has played key roles, including IT governance and outsourcing, program and portfolio management, consultancy, presales and delivery for various customers in the UK, India and Singapore and has experience from both the buyer side and seller side. He is a member of the Discover Performance community's IT Strategy & Performance LinkedIn group.

 

This blog was first posted on www.dynamiccio.com and is being reposted with prior permission.

Labels: Leadership
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