SonicWall tackles wireless LAN protection

SonicWall Inc. is marrying a VPN appliance to a wireless access point in an attempt to make it easier to set up and secure wireless LANs at small corporate offices.

SonicWall SOHO TZW enables secure WLANs and secure links across the Internet using IP Security (IPSec) VPN technology. It creates IPSec tunnels between wireless devices and the access point as well as tunnels to other SonicWall boxes at other sites. In addition, SOHO TZW is interoperable with standard 801.11b wireless cards.

On the WAN side, the device plugs into a broadband Internet-access device, such as a DSL or cable modem through which it tunnels to SonicWall devices at other sites. On the LAN side it plugs into the local switch to connect with up to 25 wired desktops and other LAN devices.

The device includes a wireless access point that uses VPN capabilities to shore up wireless connections to authorized laptops that are within range. Users install SonicWall Global VPN Client software on a laptop, and they can make IPSec tunnels with a SOHO TZW access point. This prevents nearby hackers with wireless laptops from gaining access to legitimate wireless transmissions, shoring up WEP and other suspect wireless security measures.

The device eliminates the need to wire in desktops, potentially saving on wiring costs in small offices, says Eric Ogren, an analyst with The Yankee Group. It can be set up by virtually anyone in such an office and then managed remotely, eliminating the need for a technician to make a trip to the office, he says.

The alternative to this type of device would be a firewall, a VPN termination device and a wireless access point, according to David Joyce, network and security engineer for SafeSector, an Upland, Calif., security consultancy that beta tested the SOHO TZW. The price of that configuration would range upward of US$1,300, he says. SonicWall charges US$900 for SOHO TZW.

Joyce says setting up one of the boxes takes him about 20 minutes, but he is certified to install SonicWall gear. He estimates that someone not certified on SonicWall gear could do it in about an hour. He says the most complicated part of setting up the device is getting the wireless cards in the laptops configured to work with the SOHO TZW. He says if SonicWall made its own cards preconfigured to work with the box, it would make set up a lot easier.

SOHO TZW comes with an unlimited number of software clients for wireless laptops. A license for 25 wired clients comes with it, and customers can buy a license separately for more wired desktops. Other add-ons include antivirus and content filtering software. SonicWall competes with WatchGuard Technologies Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and others in the remote access arena.

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