Basic wireless encryption standards have lulled thousands of UK firms into a false sense of security, with many relying on the inadequate Wireless Encryption Privacy (Wep) standard rather than more proven technologies such as virtual private networks.
According to a survey commissioned by security firm SonicWall, 28 per cent of companies have already implemented wireless technology and a further 40 per cent plan to do so by 2005.
The remainder, just over a third of respondents, declared that they would never deploy such technology.
Of those already using wireless networks only five per cent admitted suffering a security breach in the past 12 months, with 83 per cent claiming that they encrypt their wireless data.
The survey of directors and senior IT managers confirmed wireless networking as a growing trend, but uncovered disagreements between senior managers and technical staff over whether the technology should be deployed.
While 82 per cent of board level directors favoured wireless, one third of IT and IT project managers were resistant, largely due to security issues.
Neil Rickard, research director at Gartner, said that companies should introduce policies to govern the use of wireless, preventing employees from setting up insecure, rogue access points.
"Security is still a concern but it's getting smaller. Most people realise that enterprise Wi-Fi can be done securely. The biggest danger isn't enterprise deployment, but deployment by an end user," he explained.
"But the best way to stop this is to put [a wireless Lan] in place so that users don't feel the need to set up their own."
Mike Smart, European product manager for SonicWall, said: "Relying on Wep or banning wireless usage altogether is not enough to guarantee network integrity.
"At least three of the last 20 customer sites we visited had rogue access points."
The survey also found that 802.11b wireless connections are about to be superseded by those based on the 802.11g standard.
Even so, 43 per cent of firms with wireless had no specific guidelines or standards for the use of wireless technology.
Additional reporting by Rob Jones.
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