Letter to the editor

Your tutorial on wireless local-area networks ["Networking with no strings attached," Federal Computer Week, Nov. 5] leads readers to believe that wireless LANs can be secured easily. Unfortunately, that's far from true.

So-called Wired Equivalent Privacy can be broken in minutes to hours, even using the 128-bit encryption option. Once broken, wireless networks can be used to steal network access, impersonate other computers on the wired network and attack other resources.

At a minimum, wireless LANs require a firewall between the wireless access point and the wired network, and encrypted communications on top of WEP, typically using a virtual private network with IP security protocols.

Firewalls and VPNs significantly increase the cost of installing and operating a wireless LAN, and the VPN encryption will significantly reduce the throughput of the wireless LAN. The wireless LAN industry is scrambling to design a successor to WEP, and existing equipment might not be easily upgraded.

Please check security claims thoroughly before publishing information that could mislead your readers.

Rex Sanders
U.S. Geological Survey
Menlo Park, Calif.

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