Tag Archives: Wireless

WiFi Makes BYOD Employees Unknowing Targets

Bring your own device (BYOD) is growing increasingly popular and, as such, businesses are investing in employee training on security best practices and taking steps to ensure workers are adhering to company policy. Unfortunately for companies embracing BYOD, even employees with good intentions can create data vulnerability.

More than half of smartphone owners connect those devices to unsecured wireless networks, according to Cisco’s “BYOD Insights 2013” study. In some cases, employees may forget their phones are set up to automatically connect them to available WiFi and subsequently access sensitive company information without even realizing they are creating security risks. That scenario can be particularly damaging for organizations in heavily regulated industries—like healthcare or finance—that could be subject to massive fines for security lapses.

With even the most conscientious employees liable to make an occasional BYOD mistake, some companies choose to grant their employees access to only non-sensitive information from a personal device. But how can a business be sure that strategy is executed? What if an employee forgets the policy and tries to access confidential information from an airport hot spot as he or she waits to board a flight?

Fortunately these questions can be addressed with network monitoring solutions that can quickly drill down to the details for any node on the system in real time. With these products in place, engineers have a high-level view of the company’s network and can stop any unauthorized attempt to access sensitive material—even by a loyal employee.

Businesses are constantly faced with new security challenges they couldn’t have anticipated just a few years ago. BYOD is a fast-moving trend that snuck up on some companies, but reliable, effective tools built to meet these challenges do exist.

Download our white paper to learn more about the challenges of a BYOD environment.

Security Series Part 5: Are you Monitoring Your Employees Too?

Network security is everyone’s responsibility.

Many organizations task specific departments with implementing and monitoring security protocols. Much of the time, these efforts are focused on customer interactions, being that any compromising of client data (especially during the sales and service process) makes for terrible publicity and is the quickest way to ruin a customer relationship.

However, with the mobility and frenetic pace of today’s marketplace, it is just as important to develop and implement comprehensive internal security protocols and solutions.

An area of company communications that is especially vulnerable is WLAN. Because it uses radio transmissions, these exchanges are inherently more difficult to secure than wired LANs and are more prone to being intercepted. So, a key for modern businesses is ensuring that all employees are following security protocols to the letter. That’s what makes solutions like WildPackets’ OmniPeek so powerful and appealing.

OmniPeek is a wireless network analyzer and software console that offers an intuitive, easy-to-use graphical interface that allows rapid data analysis and troubleshooting on enterprise networks.  

A few of the key features include:

  • Deep packet inspection
  • Comprehensive 802.11 analysis, including 802.11ac
  • Complete VoIP monitoring and analysis
  • Application performance monitoring

For a quick look at OmniPeek in use, view the video below

With so many tools in one affordable offering, a wireless network analyzer like OmniPeek allows businesses to keep an eye on their security at all times. For that kind of feature richness and peace of mind, many business owners would pay a small fortune. But that’s arguably OmniPeek’s best attribute: you get all of these game-changing features for an affordable price.

Best Practices in Planning Your Wireless Network

Laying out a wireless network can be tedious, and sometimes downright stressful. In multi-AP deployments (i.e. every enterprise deployment) the placement of one AP affects all others, so every tweak in AP positioning can be like bumping the first domino, causing the entire chain to fall and have to be set up again. That is why, when mapping out where to place APs and how many to use, it’s important to have a blueprint before taking on the task yourself.

This can be done in two fashions: automatically and manually. Both practices are relatively easy for wireless pros, but each has its strengths and weaknesses. When mapping out a network across multiple stories, or large open buildings like warehouses, it is best to automatically plan AP placement using a downloaded 3D map of your space and software specifically designed for this task, like Ekahau Site Survey. On the other hand, when planning out smaller networks, often times professionals find more satisfaction, and more control, in doing so manually.

We’ve outlined both best practices below, as well as next steps to follow to ensure that your network keeps running at peak performance.

Automatic Network Planning
For the less technical wireless professional, or for large scale deployments, automatic network planning software is the best way to map out where APs should be placed to optimize your network’s performance and the overall user experience. This process involves importing floor plans of the areas to be covered by the wireless network, specifying some key dimensions on the floor plan (so the program can determine the scale accurately), specifying key construction elements in your floor plan (wood vs. metal studs, wall materials, other structures not represented in the floor plan, etc.), and selecting the AP make(s) and model(s) you plan to deploy. Most software includes a database of AP features and capabilities for common manufacturers and model numbers, so it tries to do the very best job to maximize the potential of the equipment you plan to use. The software will then calculate the approximate locations and configurations for the APs on a virtual 3D map of your building. It will also provide a channel map (a channel assignment for each AP), making every effort to avoid co-channel interference between APs. Once the software has developed a proposed layout, you can make manual adjustments, for example, if some APs end up being located in undesirable or infeasible locations (no power, no network drop, etc.). This is where the real value comes in, because in an actual deployment a few tweaks like this causes the domino effect, but since you’re only dealing with software right now you can see the effect your manual change has without needing to do any other work.

You can also play “what if” with the software, trying different configuration parameters than those recommended, or even “trying out” equipment from different manufacturers to see if certain solutions have advantages over others. For a large deployment, the time savings with an automated approach are tremendous, and easily justify the cost of either the software purchase, or the services of a third-party to run the simulations for you.

Once you’re pretty confident of your deployment, you can lay out the network, and again leverage the software to perform a site survey, taking measurements at locations within the deployment to assess the accuracy of the original software layout and make other small adjustments to ensure the best WLAN configuration.

Manual Network Planning
This approach is better suited to the more seasoned wireless expert, and is typically best for smaller deployments. It still requires the use of software – any deployment of more than just a few APs has far too many variables to manage the entire process manually. Manual network planning is only “manual” in the sense that you place your APs on the building map yourself, possibly even choosing the channel layout yourself, and then letting the program calculate overall WLAN coverage, providing a “heat map” of expected signal strengths at all locations in the network, so you can see if your layout is acceptable before actually deploying any equipment. This approach is most often used when your choices for AP placement are limited. The software can optimize the AP settings to maximize overall performance based on your AP placement constraints. After you’ve settled on a design, the same site survey described above should be used to validate both the placement and the settings, with necessary adjustments being made along the way.

Ongoing Monitoring and Analysis
Once a network is up and running you need a different solution to perform day-to-day network monitoring and analysis. Monitoring solutions are used to track which stations are connected to which APs, the overall throughput each station is able to achieve, signal strength and noise measurements, and network problems like packet loss, latency, and device configuration issues. When problems are identified, you need to be able to drill down to the details of each station to AP connection, often down to the packet level, to determine the root cause of problems.

Using a combination of WLAN planning software and a WLAN monitoring and analysis solution, you will be ensured of both the best overall WLAN design possible, and well as a network that continually meets the demands of your ever-expanding wireless network user base, essentially eliminating the threat of one day toppling over all those WLAN dominos.