Securing the airwaves

When broadband wireless does come to handheld devices, providing security

for them will be a big headache. Using cell phones to make calls is one

thing, but when they are being used to send potentially sensitive information

across a network, that's altogether different.

"Wireless needs are generally the same as what they are for the wired world,

plus a lot more," said Mike Vergara, director of product marketing for RSA

Security Inc. and leader of the company's wireless security team. "You need

the same authentication, data privacy and data integrity features. And then

you need extra security in case the device is stolen, and you have to provide

all of that in a device with significantly more stringent size concerns.

Memory in a cell phone is a whole different thing [than that in a PC]."

The new generation of devices also must have their own version of a

wireless public-key infrastructure capability, something that will be a

major concern to government agencies. PKIs use cryptography to protect data

in transmission and digital certificates to ensure that only the authorized

recipient can decrypt the message.

However, the advantage is that wireless PKI is coming right on the heels

of development of the wired version, Vergara said.

"On the security side of this, people are starting to come together

on standards," Vergara said. "On the usability side, I don't know if I could

say the same thing."

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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