AirDefense adds policy enforcement, 802.11g

Wireless LAN security company AirDefense Inc. released a new version of its monitoring software Monday, adding support for the new 802.11g wireless standard and a policy enforcement feature that can push configuration changes out to remote access points.

AirDefense 3.5 is the second generation of the Atlanta company's wireless LAN (WLAN) monitoring software.

The product acts like a "traffic helicopter" for corporate wireless networks, sitting on top of wireless VPNs (virtual private networks) and encryption technology and enabling administrators to easily survey wireless access points and client machines across their entire corporate network, according to Jay Chaudhry, AirDefense chief executive officer and chairman.

With a server appliance and a distributed network of sensor appliances, AirDefense enables administrators to monitor all activities on their WLANs from a centralized management interface. Intuitive visualization features make it easy to monitor the health of access points that make up a wireless network, AirDefense said.

The platform consists of two separate modules: AirDefense RogueWatch, which provides monitoring features and spots unauthorized ("rogue") access points and AirDefense Guard, which includes network intelligence and security features.

The latest release introduces a number of new software features.

For the RogueWatch module, AirDefense introduced a network mapping feature that graphically depicts all WLANs detected by the AirDefense sensors. Administrators can drill down to view each access point and wireless workstation, even viewing the signal strength and data transmission between wireless clients and a given access point, the company said.

For the Guard module, AirDefense added a policy enforcement and management feature that enables security policies and configuration changes to be pushed down to access points.

AirDefense Guard 3.5 also includes intrusion protection features that can turn off an access point that comes under attack and support for the devices using the new WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) wireless encryption standard, the company said.

On the hardware side, version 3.5 includes updated sensor hardware with dual radios that can monitor all three WLAN standards simultaneously: 802.11a on the 5GHz frequency spectrum as well as 802.11b and 802.11g on the 2.4GHz spectrum, the company said.

While it is marketed as a WLAN security product, AirDefense is just as useful as a WLAN management tool, said Jeff Dow, vice president of information security at media company News Corp. Ltd.

News Corp. has been using AirDefense in production for about six months to manage its WLAN deployments worldwide, Dow said.

The company was initially interested in the product as a way to prevent employees and contractors from setting up unauthorized wireless access points on the company's network, but soon realized that it had many other applications, as well, he said.

The product is akin to Hewlett-Packard Co.'s OpenView network management software in its ability to give a comprehensive view of wireless network devices, he said.

"It enables us at any one time to graphically depict all over the world what access points are communicating with what (wireless workstations) -- whether there is unauthorized policy set on those devices, whether there are security or performance issues," Dow said.

While declining to comment on News Corp.'s specific use of wireless technology, Dow said that he is impressed with AirDefense's new network mapping features and its reporting capabilities, as well as the ease of deployment for the sensor hardware.

AirDefense, which released its first software just over a year ago, has around 70 customers, Chaudhry said.

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