First 'WiFi Protected' Products Certified

New configuration standard projected to improve security in homes and remote offices

Vendors demonstrated the first products to use a new, simpler standard for configuring home WiFi security at the CES conference today in Las Vegas.

The WiFi Alliance announced that it has certified the first 10 wireless products under its WiFi Protected Setup guidelines, a set of standards designed to help home users configure security into their WiFi networks more easily.

"WiFi Protected Setup reduces by half the number of user steps required to set up a network, enabling WiFi to be more easily installed across a range of consumer devices," says Frank Hanzlik, managing director of the WiFi Alliance."

About 40 percent of WiFi home users still haven't activated the security on their wireless networks, according to a study conducted last year by Jupiter Research. In a separate study sponsored by the WiFi Alliance, Kelton Research found that 44 percent of consumers described the security activation process as "moderately" or "very" difficult.

"WiFi has quickly become one of the most pervasive wireless technologies, but consumers have told us they want it to be easier to set up and protect," Hanzlik says.

Under the new certification program, vendors can build WiFi products that prompt the user to enter a PIN or push a button as soon as they install a wireless device, the WFA says. This ensures that only the people who purchased the device will be able to use it, reducing an outsider's ability to piggyback on the network.

The first products to be certified on the new standard are mostly wireless access devices from vendors such as Atheros, Broadcom, Intel, and Marvell. However, in the future, the WiFi Protected Setup guidelines might be implemented in PCs, routers, cameras, and phones, the WFA says.

By June, the WFA is also expected to allow devices to be configured through the Near Field Communication method, in which a user touches a token or card to a wireless device to activate the security controls.

The new standards replace old configuration methods that required the user to set passwords and identify network names and passphrases.

"We expect 90 percent of networked homes to include WiFi by 2010, so it’s critical that manufacturers make it as easy as possible to configure," says Kurt Scherf, vice president and principal analyst with Parks Associates, an IT consultancy.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

  • Atheros Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: ATHR)
  • Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM)
  • Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)
  • Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL)