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
Please check security claims thoroughly before publishing information
that could mislead your readers.
U.S. Geological Survey
Menlo Park, Calif.