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Users are getting more confident about wireless security - but it still remains the primary thorn in WLAN administrators' sides, according to a user survey.

Security concerns still far and away topped the list of enterprise WLAN deployment challenges, in the 2006 Webtorials "WLAN State-of-the-Market" report, based on a survey of 350 subscribers to Webtorials, an educational website for networking professionals.

The good news, however, is that security worries dipped ever so slightly compared to last year (70 percent of respondents ranked it as their top worry, compared to 73 percent last year). So did the number of respondents who selected the statement that "wireless LANs aren't secure" as best reflecting their attitudes toward WLAN security: Just 10 percent chose this statement this year, compared with 18 percent in 2005.

WPA2 coming on stream
Most enterprises are still using Layer-3 VPNs to secure their WLANs, but the use of link-layer WPA2 shot up from 22 percent last year to 33 percent this year, and the use of WPA (WPA2 minus the AES form of encryption) jumped from 29 percent to 36 percent, indicating that enterprises are starting to take advantage of the robust technologies available to them.

Correspondingly, the use of older security approaches such as Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), MAC address filtering, and disabling service set identifiers (SSID) as a primary security approach dropped by about 8 percentage points.

And 25 percent of respondents said they have deployed a WLAN and secured it to their satisfaction; another 27 percent said they are already using wireless intrusion detection and prevention monitoring to guard against rogue devices and break-ins (an option that wasn't available in last year's survey).

Still, while network manager confidence is growing in WLAN security, 18 percent said they don't feel confident about their ability to secure their wireless networks properly (though that number is down from 24 percent last year).

Help is at hand
The Wi-Fi Alliance has a project going internally - codenamed "Simple Config" - that aims to build a spec to be implemented by WiFi-certified WLAN system vendors - intended to simplify basic WLAN and WLAN security configuration. Such a project could help ease worries about "getting it right" with all the various WLAN security knobs that need to be turned and tuned today. The spec is expected this fall.

However, Simple Config is currently a consumer-focused endeavor, according to an Alliance spokeswoman, and it isn't clear yet whether a similar program will be instituted for enterprise-class products.

Interested in enterprise plans for deploying 802.11n, 802.11a, and converged WiFi-cellular networks? For the details on these and other enterprise wireless trends, download the full report (it's free; however, registration is required). This year's survey and report were sponsored by Aruba Wireless Networks.