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WiFi malfunction at iPhone 4 launch reinforced the need of Wireless Intrusion Detection Systems (WIDS)

An after look into the cause of WiFi malfunction experienced by Steve Jobs during the recently conducted iPhone 4 launch at Apple's flagship Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) has revealed that around 500 mobile hotspot networks were operational at the time of conference. Most of these mobile hotspots were MiFi devices, and around 1000 WiFi devices were connected to these hotspots. Simultaneous operation of such a large number of hotspot networks in the 2.4-GHz band possibly caused drastic interference with Apple’s WiFi network (also operating in the 2.4-GHz band), leading to disruption in the services of later.

MiFi and other similar devices are gaining rapid popularity as they provide easy sharing of cellular data connections over a personal WiFi network. People attending the iPhone 4 launch were using personal MiFi devices mostly for uploading the live proceedings of the massive event. Although Apple did provide a public WiFi at the launch, many of the attendees would not have used this because of the fear of unreliable WiFI connections. Thus, many people likely chose to stick to their personal MiFi devices.

To avoid such a malfunction, the need for reliable and robust corporate WiFi networks is readily evident. This need is actively addressed by the newly released 802.11n standard and ongoing research on WiFi products by various vendors.  However, the presence of such a large number of personal hotspot devices at the Apple launch brings to light the security issues that can crop up due to these devices and the strong need for a dedicated and robust Wireless Intrusion Detection System (WIDS) to identify such devices and tackle related security issues.

A robust WIDS system actively monitors all possible wireless channels to identify all unauthorized WiFi devices operating within a corporate/enterprise environment Also, it detects possible intrusions or disruptions to corporate networks that can be caused by theses devices. An advanced form of WIDS, know as WIPS, is also capable of providing automatic prevention from such intrusions.

It is high time for organizations to understand that corporate air space belongs to them and they should ensure that this space is properly protected. Wireless security vendors have already emphasized many times in the past that conventional wired firewalls and NAC solutions are unable to protect organizations from wireless intrusions and, hence, a WIDS/WIPS solution is also required in addition to these to provide a full-fledged security cover to a corporate/enterprise network environment.

I hope that Apple and other vendors will surely look upon some kind of WIDS/WIPS solution to monitor needful air space and prevent embarrassing incidents such as the WiFi malfunction during the iPhone 4 launch from happening in the future. 

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