A temporary ban has been put on wireless local area networks (Wlans) by the US Department of Energy's national laboratory. They had been installed in non-classified areas.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) issued a statement saying that the measure is necessary because of the security risks that Wlans posed.
"Any programme/directorate with an existing Wlan in the property protection areas must disconnect it from all LLNL institutional networks and obtain an approved exception to this policy before resuming operation of the Wlan," the statement said.
Ted Michels, the lab's acting chief information officer, said in a recent issue of its newsletter that "wireless networks and their built-in security features have been found under testing to be very insecure".
The LLNL has said it will now control the deployment of wireless technologies "until solutions can be found to address their security vulnerabilities".
The lab, which produces research on nuclear weapons and other defence technologies, disabled two Wlans that were in use at its Livermore campus, a spokesman said, adding that certain wireless technologies are not covered by this policy because they are already banned.
These include cell phones, pagers, two-way mobile and portable radios, point-to-point voice, video and data communications systems, computer keyboards and computer mice.
According to market researcher Gartner the adoption of wireless technologies is on the rise, with about 30 per cent of all companies with a computer network having some kind of wireless network.
Yet security experts have warned that such networks can pose a serious security threat because information passed along a Wlan is often unprotected and easily captured.
In addition, different vendors use proprietary standards which are incompatible and create security holes when used together.
Jason Smolek, wireless networking analyst at IDC, pointed out that wireless security has been under constant scrutiny since the first 802.11b products were launched in 1999.
He insisted that serious changes must be made to protect wireless transmissions. "The ability to keep information secure is an absolutely critical issue for many businesses today," he said.
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