Wireless local area networks

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Abstract:

    Wireless networks have exhibited significant growth within the last few years in both home and corporate environments due in part to low cost and increased hardware quality. IEEE 802.11 wireless LAN (WLAN) is the most widely usedWLAN standard today, but it cannot provide QoS support for the increasing number of multimedia application. This growth has fueled new applications for wireless networks ranging from advanced warehouse inventory systems to wireless voice over internet protocol (VoIP) phones.Wireless local area networks (LAN's) also referred to as Wi-Fi since their introduction in the mid 1980s they have proliferated among users and have taken over organisations. Their wired counterparts and wireless LANs are prone to security vulnerabilities. Most of these so called vulnerabilities exist only because enough care is not taken to ensure that there is strong seccurity in place. In this paper, we have studied about the most of the vulnerabilities that can exist for all types of LAN systems. This also describes where the vulnerabilities reside; methods used to detect and secure them. This paper describes an iterative process for business risk analysis, vulnerability identification, and threat remediation.

Keywords:IEEE 802.11, Wireless LAN (WLAN), Medium Access Control (MAC), Quality of Service (QoS)

Introduction:

    Wireless LAN security has come a long way since the early days and the negative publicity around the shortcomings of WEP. Recent advances in WLAN technology and the ratification of key wireless security standards are giving CIOs and network administrators the high level of confidence in WLAN security that they have always needed. In its simplest form wireless LAN can be thought of as two or more unwired computers using the airwaves for typical computer purposes, with the help of an access point.

Problem Statement:

    Security on wireless local area networks (WLANs) is a requirement in today's rapid deployment of this technology. To address this problem, measurements were conducted on a test bed network to determine some of the overhead associated with wireless network security. Much of this research focuses on the throughput reduction of networks caused by advanced encryption schemes prevalent in many of today's corporate networks in addition to the authentication methods those networks implement. For achieving an effective connectivity, WLAN security must address three critical areas;

  • Data Confidentiality and Integrity,
  • Authentication and Access Control, and
  • Intrusion Detection and Prevention

WLAN Vulnerabilities:

    All networks are vulnerable, but in wired networks, physical barriers reduce risk by limiting media access. There are several known vulnerabilities that occur mostly because of the very nature of LAN, which use radio frequencies to permit transmission of data over the airwaves.The most commonly known vulnerabilities are:

  • Inability to Control Access
  • Lack of Confidentiality
  • Unauthorized Network Use
  • Forged Messages
  • Denial of Service
  • Vulnerable Stations
  • Rouge Access Points
  • MAC Address Filtering

The Current State of WLAN Security:

    Even after a decade of availability and promising commercial successes, security remains the number one concern for enterprise WLAN deployments. According to Joanie Wexler's 2007 WLAN State-of-the Market report, just over half (53%) of the global respondents identified security issues as their primary concern. The good news is that this is a significant decrease from the 2006 study where over 70% of respondents were concerned about WLAN security. Much of the trepidation over WLAN security was due to the nature of WiFi. The 802.11 standard - also known as Wireless Ethernet - is based on the principle of a shared medium. While most managers have felt comfortable enough with the fact that they can physically secure their wired networking medium, their LAN, they were less comfortable when the network medium is the open air. There was a general perception that WLANs are inherently insecure, and early implementations reinforced this notion through well-publicized vulnerabilities and attacks. This perception has been a major problem that has kept some network managers from implementing wireless LANs altogether.

Aim:

    My aim of the project is to analyze and research on the recent trends in WLAN technologies, managing a wireless LAN network, researching on the risks and vulnerabilities involved. This project also faces a challenge to develop plans to consider when deploying a LAN. It involves providing a solution for the security problems faced by wireless LAN. It also analyses and attemps to study the security mechanism provided by implementing a firewall for wireless networks.

Objective:

    My main objective is to study and research about present wired/wireless network technologies. Here, the main focus is to analyze the procedure behind effective management of wireless networks. I also tried to study the various risks and vulnerabilities involved in a WLAN and finding appropriate solutions for efective communication. My project has been allocated into various tasks as shown below:

  • Analyzing the present technology which implements WLAN technologies and its management.
  • Evaluating the mechanism involved behind setting up a secured WLAN.
  • Discussing about the security issues and vulnerabilities involved in wireless networks.
  • Implementing and assessing various encryption standards which can provide security to WLAN and also discussing the mechanism for implementing a firewall to make the WLAN networks secure.

Literature Review:

    The 802.11WLANtechnologies provide people with ubiquitous communication and computing environment in offices, hospitals, campuses etc. These applications include streaming media, interactive collaboration, videoconferencing and downloadable content such as multimedia messaging. However, multimedia applications require a certain quality of service (QoS) support such as guaranteed bandwidth, delay, and jitter and error rate. Guaranteeing those QoS requirements is a challenging task with regard to 802.11WLANprotocols and Medium Access Control (MAC) functions. Wireless networks have proven their ability to send data at higher rates and robust in so many environments. However, providing QoS and security is still a challenging task. Several proposals have been presented in order to enhance the performance, overcome vulnerabilities and providing guarantee QoS in IEEE 802.11e in order to transmit data those required high bandwidth in addition with their delay sensitive nature.

References:

  1. "Wi-Fi: The Standard for Wireless Fidelity," Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA) Ltd [Online]. Available:http://www.wirelessethernet.org
  2. "Wi-Fi System Interoperability Test Plan, Version 1.0," Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance, February 2000. [Online]. Available:http://www.wirelessethernet.org
  3. W. A. Arbaugh, N. Shankar, and Y.J. Wan, "Your 802.11 wireless network has no clothes," University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, March 2001. [Online]. Available: http://www.cs.umd.edu/~waa/wireless.pdf
  4. J. R. Walker, "Unsafe at any key size: An analysis of the WEP encapsulation," Intel Corp., Hillsboro, OR, October 2000. Doc.: IEEE 802.11-00/362. [Online]. Available: http://grouper.ieee.org/groups/802/11/Documents/DocumentHolder/0-362.zip
  5. J. R. Walker, "Overview of 802.11 Security," Intel Corp., Hillsboro, OR, March 2000. Doc.: IEEE 802.15-01/154. [Online] Available: http://grouper.ieee.org/groups/802/15/pub/2001/Mar01/01154r0P802-15_TG3-Overview-of-80211-Security.ppt
  6. W. A. Arbaugh, "An inductive chosen plaintext attack against WEP/WEP2," University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, May 2001. Doc.: IEEE 802.11-01/230r1. [Online]. Available: http://grouper.ieee.org/groups/802/11/Documents/DocumentHolder/1-230.zip
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  8. "Network Stumbler," software. [Online] Available:http://www.netstumbler.com