Study On The Types Of Wireless Technology Computer Science
Wireless technology has become the wave of the future. Everything from cell phones, wireless gaming systems, wireless networks and personal area wireless devices this kind of technology is all around us. In order to jump on the wireless band[wagon], one must first understand the different standards. To properly and safely utilize wireless technology the user also must understand the various types of wireless security. Once grasping these technologies and standards, anyone can implement a wireless network.
First, the 802.11b wireless networking standard, which is the most common consumer based standard. The 802.11b standard's frequency is in the 2.4 GHz range which is common with most cordless telephones and some microwave ovens. There are not really many problems with this interference however because you can choose between one of 11 different channels. The speed that is supported by this standard is pretty average at 11mbps but is relatively slow compared to a 100mbps or 1000mbps that is common amongst wired networks. All of this really is not an issue because the average consumer broadband Internet connection is in the 4-6mbps range.
The 802.11b standard that most wireless hotspots in coffee shops, wireless broadband gateways in bigger areas and company LANs have been using is being replaced by newer stronger and faster standards and equipment.
The 802.11a ,which was developed in the same time period as B, wireless networking standard is not as common as 802.11b but is still utilized in many wireless networks. 802.11a operates at a higher frequency than 802.11b at 5 GHz and at a higher speed as well at 55mbps. There are some advantages and disadvantages however to using the 802.11a wireless networking standard. The first advantage is that it operates at a 5 GHz frequency allowing for less interference as few devices are using this frequency. A disadvantage to this standard is that it has poor performance over longer distances and speed decreases with longer distances as well due to the higher frequency.
An upgrade to 802.11b is 802.11g which offers some of the same technology as 802.11b but with significant upgrades and improvements. The most significant improvement over the 802.11b standard is the speed. 802.11g supports speeds upwards of 55mbps which is a huge increase over the 11mbps of 802.11b. This standard operates at 2.4 GHz which is the same frequency that the 802.11b standard operates at allowing for distance and penetration, plus backwards compatibly with B.
Finally the brand new standard that is still in its newer stages is 802.11n. 802.11n is a huge step towards equality amongst wireless and wired networks. First, the standard sets a speed requirement of at least 100mbps which is common amongst most wired computer networks. It is most likely that the throughput will be in the 200mbps range with a maximum hopefully being in the 600mbps range. The 802.11n standard is operating at both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies. The final 802.11n draft was put out in October of 2009.
After choosing a particular standard to go with and buying the equipment to support that standard, one needs to know the method of security they wish to implement on their networking equipment to maintain privacy and to prevent others from "sharing" their internet access. The different types of security come in several varieties such as WEP, WPA, WPA2 and Radius authentication. Each of these different types of security offers a little something different and varying degrees of security.
WEP, also known as Wired Equivalency Privacy is the most basic form of security on a wireless network next to no security at all. I have hacked many neighbors running the WEP protocol. WEP has encountered tons of scrutiny, many times being referred to as the Weak Encryption Protocol. After WEP is set up it functions by encrypting the payload of the packet before it is transmitted using RC-4 (Rivest Cipher 4). After the transmission is received it is decrypted by the other station that is also using WEP which virtually means that the security is only in the transmission between the devices. In addition WEP uses only a 40 bit or 64 bit key to encrypt the data. These key lengths are very susceptible to cracking. Another vulnerability or weakness is that the keys are generally pre-shared and are static which makes it easier to crack because it is non-changing.
Another form of security over wireless networks is WPA (WI-FI Protected Access). WPA is far more secure and the most recommended security type used for consumer wireless networks. Instead of using an encryption key, it rather uses a pass phrase between 8 and 63 characters in length. In combination with the SSID, WPA uses TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol) to generate a unique encryption key for each client. Because the keys are dynamically created there is less concern for cracking. WPA is infinitely superior to WEP but with any security method in use, nothing is completely secure and hack/crack proof. Although very similar to WPA, WPA2 offers a key upgrade to WPA that offers even more security. One of the biggest improvement was the addition of AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) based algorithm, CCMP (Counter Mode with Cipher Block Chaining Message Authentication Code Protocol) in addition to TKIP. CCMP is considered fully secure.
Finally, one of the most secure methods to wireless security and one used by corporations and other commercial entities worldwide is RADIUS authentication. RADIUS stands for Remote Authentication Dial in User Service which basically means you must first authenticate with a server separate from the wireless network before even being allowed access to the wireless network. This type of authentication first makes sure you are valid user then passes your information on to the RADIUS server which makes sure that the information is correct using authentication schemes such as PAP Password Authentication Protocol), CHAP (Challenge-Handshake Authentication Protocol) or EAP (Extensible Authentication Protocol). Many organizations and Internet service providers use RADIUS authentication because various statistics can be logged which can be useful in billing or productivity monitoring. RADIUS although widely used in wireless networks is unfortunately on its way out and will eventually be replaced with DIAMETER which will be quite an upgrade but there may be some compatibility issues.
Wireless networking is definitely a great technology and the wave of the future for networking. The biggest thing for consumers to understand that without a little bit of research and education there is the potential for disaster when choosing equipment and implementing the network. With careful research and selection of equipment, consumers can set up a secure and quite effective wireless network.
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