To enhance the appeal of Windows XP among wireless users, and to show that it is serious about security, Microsoft has issued a free upgrade for XP that enables support for Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA).
WPA is an interim wireless security measure while the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers works on the ratification of 802.11i, a next-generation, more secure wireless standard which should be completed by the end of the year.
Wi-Fi has suffered from security issues since it was first made available, largely because of poor encryption.
WPA replaces the weak Wired Equivalent Privacy encryption protocol with Temporal Key Integrity Protocol. This features a stronger encryption algorithm and allows for the automatic generation and distribution of keys.
Jawad Khaki, Microsoft's corporate vice president of Windows networking and communications technologies, told BetaNews.com that customers had described the wireless experience with Windows XP as a huge leap forward in terms of ease of use.
But he acknowledged that many IT managers are hesitant to enable wireless connectivity in their organisations owing to security concerns.
Khaki claimed that, with standards-based WPA, customers would have greater confidence that their data is more secure.
However, it is not just XP that needs upgrading: users will have to wait for hardware vendors to release updated and compatible firmware.
The XP patch can be found in the Microsoft Knowledge Base here
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