RF barrier protects WLAN installations from "attackers"

Aug. 8, 2008
August 8, 2008--Meru Networks has introduced RF Barrier, an IEEE 802.11-based technology for defending wireless networks against eavesdroppers and "parking lot" attackers who attempt to record and observe network traffic from outside a building's perimeter.

August 8, 2008--Meru Networks has introduced RF Barrier, an IEEE 802.11-based technology for defending wireless networks against eavesdroppers and "parking lot" attackers who attempt to record and observe network traffic from outside a building's perimeter.

RF Barrier uses wireless LAN technology (WLAN) to block the radio-frequency (RF) signals from the corporate network as they exit the building, without disrupting internal WLAN operation. This limits an attacker's ability to eavesdrop on data and perform offline analysis.

"Parking lot" attacks take advantage of wireless propagation, or bleed-through, from within a building through the perimeter and out to a parking lot or other surrounding area. These passive attacks generate no network traffic or other sign they are occurring, and so are undetectable by conventional wireless intrusion prevention systems (WIPS). In an activity known as "wardriving," attackers drive around the perimeter of enterprises and retail sites, looking for vulnerable or exposed networks. (A number of successful and costly parking lot attacks have been perpetrated, one of the most notable involving the theft of millions of users' credit-card records.)

RF Barrier protects clients with legacy security mechanisms, such as handhelds and scanners equipped only with WEP or WPA/TKIP, as well as modern WPA2- and EAP-based networks, where it helps prevent the exposure of potentially exploitable information, such as user identities. Furthermore, it provides physical wireless security in remote branch offices where no IT personnel are present to detect or stop an attack from outside the site's physical boundaries.

RF Barrier is installed by mounting a Meru Networks wireless access point along the inside perimeter of a building, and an advanced external antenna outside the perimeter. RF Barrier technology inspects the traffic in real time to determine which part belongs to the WLAN (and is, therefore, designated as sensitive) and uses the external antenna to block outbound traffic at the RF layer. Would-be attackers are limited in their ability to see useful packet information about the internal network.

Because RF Barrier uses directional antennas and selective enforcement technology, it has no impact on signals within the building or from other networks. Internal clients connect normally, with enterprise access points serving them at full speed. RF Barrier can be turned on and off as needed, giving enterprises the flexibility to allow access at certain times of day while restricting it at others.

"Previously, both wireless security and infrastructure vendors have focused on protecting the connection and the back-end network, while the perimeter--where attacks cannot be detected--has remained undefended," says Joe Epstein, Meru's senior director of technology. "RF Barrier mounts a strong defense by blocking signals from the designated wireless network from being effectively decoded outside the perimeter."

For example, Epstein continues, "A retailer need no longer worry about the 'bleeding' of its financial data beyond the walls of the building from legacy devices that don't support the newest and most advanced security standards. As the first solution to provide cost-effective perimeter wireless protection, RF Barrier can greatly expand the network manager's confidence in the security of both legacy and modern wireless networks."

Chicago-based produce wholesaler Anthony Marano Company has tested RF Barrier and plans to deploy it later this year. Chris Nowak, the company
s chief technology officer, says Marano was seeking to protect its Wi-Fi voice infrastructure, which supports virtually all of its communication with customers and vendors.

"Our Nokia Wi-Fi smart phones handle sensitive voice calls as well as confidential e-mails and contact information," Nowak said. "With our warehouse adjacent to an interstate highway and other major roads, no one is comfortable with blasting a Wi-Fi signal all over the place. RF Barrier lets us decide exactly where we want to draw the border around the coverage area, and we know that the information stops right here. And we can keep our infrastructure tuned to maximum power without worrying about the consequences of signal bleeding. RF Barrier dramatically reduces the risk of parking lot-type security attacks, and means we won't have to make excuses to management later."

Available in September for networks using any Meru 802.11a/b/g access points, RF Barrier is priced at $3,595 (U.S.) for a starter kit that includes four antennas, four access points, cables and software licenses.

On the Web: www.merunetworks.com

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