Home References Access and Policy Control for Wireless Networks

Wireless access and policy control refers to a clear set of rules defining the access levels, rights and privileges.

The need for wireless security:

Wireless networks are a boon to every company, especially the ones that have a huge network and would have had to otherwise struggle with miles of cable if they had chosen not to go the Wi-Fi way. Wireless networks allow the employees to become truly mobile, and they need not worry about getting a network access if they choose to move away from their desks and work from any other location where the Wi-Fi network can be reached.

However, with great convenience comes the risk of great security hazards.

An open wireless network is accessible by anyone and is dangerously insecure. Anyone can connect to the network and access the sensitive information being transmitted by the other users. This will make the wireless networks prone to hacking and intrusion.

Any unauthorized access can severely compromise the confidentiality, integrity and availability of sensitive information, and can result in huge losses to the organization. While most of the wireless networks nowadays are encrypted with WEP, WPA and WPA2 passwords, this is inadequate. In addition, a system of access and quality control for wireless networks should be implemented, and that should be implemented even before the wireless network goes live.

Implementing access and policy control will limit the rights of usage of the employees. Certain parts of the network or some categories of Internet sites can be made inaccessible to the employees. For example, most employees should never get access to confidential MIS reports. By implementing a policy, wherein those files are made off-limits to everyone except the few senior level employees for whom the reports have been created, the secrecy of those files can be maintained

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Best practices:

  • The access and policy control for wireless networks should be defined and written down in a document which should be available to all the network administrators.

  • The wireless access policy and rules should be clearly decided for every employee or group of employees at different hierarchical levels within the organization.

  • The access policy should be implemented for every new user whose access is granted to the network.

  • Any exceptional request for additional access should be accompanied with proper approvals from their seniors or other approving authorities and network administrators.

  • Whenever any new hardware like router, switch, etc. is implemented, or existing ones are replaced, security hardening would be done without fail.

  • Some organizations might even allow limited guest access to outsiders, but even that should be properly secured by a policy.

  • The encryption, access and policy control, and integrity of the wireless networks should be monitored and audited regularly.

Challenges:

The biggest challenge that any wireless network faces is that of unauthorized or through access points that connect to the network and become a part of the network itself. These access points can grant access to any device and compromise the integrity of the network. The network administrators should monitor the access pattern, duration, and activity of every device on the network. They should also tally the IP addresses of the devices to ensure that no unauthorized device has accessed the wireless network.

Stealing of Wi-Fi passwords is another big threat. To prevent this, the company should educate every employee about the importance of keeping their passwords to themselves and should also enforce a policy to make them change their passwords regularly.

Enterprises that use legacy devices which depend on the older versions of encryption and access control need to upgrade their network periodically. Using obsolete technology and wireless network equipment is not advisable if they want to implement a strong access and policy control for their wireless network. They should immediately upgrade their networks to the latest Wi-Fi and security standards, if they want to ensure that their networks remain safe at all times.

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