In response to criticisms of the much-derided Wireless Encryption Protocol (Wep) used in wireless networks, an industry group has ditched it in favour of Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA).
The Wi-Fi Alliance said the new specification is based on the forthcoming 802.11i draft standard, which will not be out until late next year.
"Enterprises, small businesses and home users need a stronger standards-based security solution than Wep, and they need it now," said Wi-Fi Alliance chairman Dennis Eaton in a statement.
He added that this approach offers secure existing products while giving the IEEE 802.11 Task Group time to complete and finalise the full 802.11i Robust Security Network amendment to the existing wireless local area network standard.
"Security is, and will continue to be, the highest priority for the Wi-Fi Alliance and for the industry," said Eaton.
WPA is designed to be a software upgrade, whereas obtaining full use of the IEEE 802.11i standard is likely to require new equipment.
Up to 490 products currently on the market are expected to be able to receive the firmware and software upgrades. There is no further information at this stage on when the upgrades will be made available.
Many vendors are expected to begin shipping products with WPA by March or April 2003. A few vendors may begin shipping as early as February.
Analysts welcomed the move, but warned that it may be a little late in the day.
"It is a bit like closing the door after the horse has bolted," said Mark Blowers, senior research analyst at Butler Group. "But at least they are attempting to rectify the problem that has been identified.
"Anything the industry can provide that is fairly easy for people to upgrade has got to be welcomed."
He pointed out that there are other ways for administrators to secure wireless networks in the absence of decent secure technologies.
Blowers suggested virtual private networks, tightened user access and not locating access points on external walls as a starting point in securing wireless local area networks.
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