While connecting to a wireless network can be as simple as a few button presses or taps, there is a lot that goes into making the bits magically travel through the ether. We’re going to take a look at some of the building blocks that go into making your wireless network stable and fast, with an eye toward security and standards. We’ll also look at some of the devices that can improve your wireless network, and ways you can use your Wi-Fi capability while away from home.
If you thought that your 8 character WPA password was secure, think again. Thanks to the handy-dandy GPU, cracking weak WPA/WPA-2 PSK passwords has never been easier.
According the Elcomsoft, their Wireless Security Auditor can work completely off-line and find passwords by analyzing a dump of network communications, and display them in plain text.
What this means, is that if you’ve got a WPA protected network, you should probably bump your 8 character password up to at least 12 characters. According to David Hobson, “It's a wake-up call to IT managers, pure and simple. IT managers should now move to 12 and even 16 character keys as a matter of urgency. It's not very user-friendly, but the potential consequences of staying with eight character keys do not bear thinking about.”
The technique leverages the parallel processing power of Nvidia’s latest graphics cards to speed up the “password recovery” process by 10,000 per cent. Global Security Systems (GSS) has advised enterprises to deploy VPNs for safeguarding their WiFi networks.
We, too, can only advise you to secure your office WiFi network using VPN encryption before professional industrial sleuths start waging brute forcing blitzkriegs using ordinary graphics cards.
Belkin’s N1 Vision takes user friendliness to a whole new level. This is the first router we’ve seen that offers extensive installation hand-holding right in the firmware—there’s no need to drop a CD in your drive.
If you’ve already installed a Wi-Fi router, you don’t need the vendor’s installation software to help you through the process. So we weren’t surprised that Trendnet didn’t develop anything for its TEW-633GR 802.11n Draft 2.0 product, relying instead on Pure Networks’ Network Magic.
From the get-go, Buffalo’s Nfiniti WZR2-G300N installation routine prompts you to establish a new password for accessing the router’s firmware. Considering all the legitimate concerns about network security, why is this step the exception rather than the rule for router-installation wizards?
You can never have too much speed or too much storage, and the Linksys WRT350N makes it easy to have both. This router took first place while running in 802.11n-only mode and second place while running in mixed 802.11b/g/n mode. And its Storage Link feature enables you to plug in any USB storage device to add NAS functionality—the only router in this roundup to offer such a feature.
Belkin’s N1 router looks gorgeous, and the company has put a lot of thought into making it easy for greenhorns to build a home network, but the N1 was the slowest in this field and it delivered very poor range.
Netgear’s WNR854T was faster than any other router in this roundup in our close-range tests, lost the least amount of potency while running WEP security, and came in second in our 40-foot test, bested by D-Link’s DIR-655. But Netgear’s entry was several times slower than D-Link’s in our 150-foot test. (See page 70 for benchmark details.)