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Product Watch: New Patents Help Upstart Make A Ruckus In Wireless Security Management

New technologies promise to simplify the configuration and administration of Wi-Fi security
Ruckus Wireless yesterday announced it has been granted a patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office for an innovation that radically simplifies the configuration, administration, and strength of wireless network security.

The patent is one of nearly two dozen patents granted to Ruckus, with dozens more pending approval, according to the company.

The new technique, commonly known as Dynamic Pre-Shared Key (PSK), effectively eliminates the tedious and time-consuming manual installation of encryption keys, passphrases, or user credentials needed to securely access a wireless network.

Dynamic PSK dynamically generates strong, unique security keys for each authenticated user, automatically installing these encryption keys on end user devices with little or no human intervention, Ruckus says.

As Wi-Fi network usage grows, many companies have used a passphrase that must be shared among many users and manually entered into client devices. If this "preshared key" becomes known or stolen, then it must be changed for all users and manually re-entered into every client device, according to Ruckus.

An alternative to the preshared key approach is a security framework such as 802.1x, which requires information, such as unique certificates or supplicants, to be installed on every user device. Deploying such systems requires a high level of technical expertise, as well as ongoing technical support for users, Ruckus says.

Integrated into all Ruckus ZoneDirector wireless LAN controllers at no cost, Dynamic PSK technology is device-independent and works on laptops and handheld Wi-Fi enabled devices. When a user initially accesses the wireless network, they are authenticated through a captive portal on the Ruckus ZoneDirector. This information is checked against any standard back-end authentication server, such as Active Directory, RADIUS, or an internal database on the ZoneDirector.

Once the user has been successfully authenticated, Dynamic PSK technology automatically generates a unique encryption key for that user device, Ruckus explains. This key is downloaded to the client and automatically configured, along with the requisite Wi-Fi information. This eliminates the need for manual configuration.

Each Dynamic PSK is bound to a specific client device and has a configurable lifetime. With Dynamic PSK, organizations control the length of time each key is valid in increments of hours, days, weeks, or months. Once the key expires, users must reauthenticate. If a user device is stolen, then others on the network are not at risk, Ruckus says. Network managers need only delete the compromised user or device record in their authentication databases.

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