August 25, 2011

AirTight Networks Gets to the Heart of Wi-Fi Security


Wi-Fi security solutions provider AirTight Networks (News - Alert), Inc. sat down with Carl Ford, a TMCnet columnist and partner at CrossFire Media, to discuss security concerns with Wi-Fi usage as well as the company's strategy within and beyond the enterprise market. The interview was part of TMC's (News - Alert) On the Road series in San Jose, CA.

Pravin Bhagwat, co-founder & CTO of AirTight, said the company's main focus is to ensure customers who use Wi-Fi do so in a secure fashion. He added that there are ways that Wi-Fi networks may be compromised beyond the imagination of most end uses, and it's the job of AirTight to protect all end customers in a wide variety of scenarios. "Because, after all, it's an invisible medium," said Bhagwat.

The company realizes that Wi-Fi is becoming an extremely crowded market, particularly with the growth of residential usage. With the number of enabled devices seeking access points on the rise, the typical user is surrounded by signals from neighboring buildings. Administrators now have to worry if their users are on the proper network or on someone else's, as well as exposing their own networks to outside usage.

AirTight believes companies need a security monitor to scan all channels to ensure they are secure. Even companies that do not allow Wi-Fi on their campuses can benefit from AirTight to ensure access points have not been enabled through outside devices brought onto campus. The key issue, according to Bhagwat, is that wireless is a shared medium and there will always be a mix of traffic from all directions. Alarms and monitoring need to be coordinated with that traffic, to avoid a large number of false alarms.

"You only need to raise an alarm when activity is directly coupled to your network," said Bhagwat. "So, if you have a system which starts spewing up alarms just because it detects some activity, you're going to be seeing a large number of false alarms." AirTight works by capturing packets at Layer 2 and analyzing whether the traffic scheme is potentially in violation of a company's security policy. If so, the solution can automatically block those connections via technology embedded in their products.

AirTight's typical customers include enterprise and campus environments, as well as some government contracts. The company is looking to go beyond enterprise and high-security facilities to address additional markets like telecoms and service providers, which have a compelling need for this type of security. Service providers are continuously pressured to offer Wi-Fi access at a large number of distributed sites, and these sites need to be centrally managed and monitored to ensure proper security is being met.

"We are ready from a technology standpoint to support that scale and the cost," said Bhagwat.

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Edited by Rich Steeves