Meru Networks’ electronic warfare-style radio scrambling and jamming technology for wireless local-area networks is a new approach to security that other vendors will probably mimic, according to one industry analyst.Last month, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Meru, which manufacturers equipment that routes Internet Protocol telephony traffic over 802.11-based wireless LAN equipment, announced it plans to ship the Security Services Module for its wireless LAN controllers some time during the second quarter of this calendar year.
The module is comprised of software that users would load on to Meru controllers running its proprietary System Director operating system, and would allow access points to scan individual packets and radio channels for security violations without interrupting their own transmissions.
access points will ignore rogues
When it finds “rogue” access points — those installed either by hackers or by users without the permission of the IT department — it will jam their transmissions using technology similar to that used by the military for electronic warfare.
Once the Security Service Module jams a rogue, its transmissions will appear as white noise to the legitimate access points, which will then ignore all traffic from the rogue. Not only does this prevent hackers from launching spoofing attacks through rogues, but it also reduces traffic overhead.
“Radio jamming is just a more efficient rogue mitigation technique,” said Joel Vincent, Meru’s marketing director.
Joel Conover, principal analyst for enterprise infrastructure at San Diego-based Current Analysis Inc., agreed.
“The more time you spend on the network shutting down rogues, the less time you’ve got for real traffic,” he said.
“Meru, who’s focused on making voice work on the wireless network, is making the strong assertion that most of the other technologies out there are not going to leave enough time to effectively do voice over IP.”
Although the micro-scanning feature is designed for voice networks, Vincent said radio jamming is a means of making the network more secure for both voice and data.
SSM also includes a transmission scrambling feature, which is said to prevent attacks from eavesdropping hackers. The radio-frequency-level scrambling is designed to ensure only the sender and receiver see transmissions, while all other clients see white noise.
“We’re stopping people before they even get access to the network,” Vincent said.
Most current wireless LAN security technologies involve encryption and authentication technologies, such as wired equivalent privacy (WEP) or Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA)
Conover is not aware of any networking vendors other than Meru working on radio scanning and jamming technology.
“Nobody’s really approaching the problem from this angle,” he said. “It’s nice to see a small company do some real innovation. At the end of the day, these guys will probably get copied by the industry.”
Vincent said the Security Services Module is not a substitute for WPA, but an additional security measure that protects the network at the radio-frequency level.
Initial interest was from government users — especially the armed forces — and health care organizations, Vincent said.