Real 802.11 Security: Wi-Fi Protected Access and 802.11i

Authors: Jon Edney and William A. Arbaugh
Pages: 480
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
ISBN: 0321136209

Available for download is chapter 8 entitled “Access Control: IEEE 802.1X, EAP, and RADIUS”.


With the development of wireless technology, wireless security issues become more and more important. This book helps you to understand how wireless network security operates and offers you advice for a number of wireless implementation issues you might have to deal with.

About the authors

Jon Edney specializes in wireless networking and is a key contributor to the development of IEEE 802.11 systems. As a member of the technology consultancy Symbionics Networks, he deployed the first low-cost 802.11 designs. In 1996, Edney cofounded InTalk, Inc., the first IEEE 802.11 company to develop WLAN access points. After InTalk was acquired by Nokia Corporation, he focused on the application of Wi-Fi to public access networks. He is an active member of the IEEE 802.11 TGi security group.

An interview with Jon Edney is available here.

William A. Arbaugh is an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Maryland in College Park, where he conducts research in information systems security. Arbaugh served as a senior computer scientist for the National Security Agency’s Office of Research and Technology, and then as senior technical advisor for the Office of Advanced Network Programs. He has many publications to his credit and has delivered papers at security-related conferences such as IEEE, SANS, USENIX, and Comdex.

Inside the book

The book doesn’t start with a primer on wireless terminology or WLAN basics, but rather starts with a guide on security thinking. Although a guide through basic security principles and terms, could be possibly regarded as non-important to the general audience of this book, its significance lies in the fact that it stresses out the security definitions and methods needed to create a solid standing ground for a successful IT implementation.

Why is Wi-Fi Vulnerable to attacks? Authors try to answer this question early in the third chapter, where they take a look at technical characteristics and specifics that make wireless networks especially vulnerable to a number of attacks. This is followed with an introductory piece on the different types of attacks the administrator can expect in a wireless LAN atmosphere.

Second part of the book contains the most important topics, the reader of “Real 802.11 Security” expects. Besides giving an overview of 802.11 protocol organization and details, the authors start the “tougher” Wi-Fi security topics with a scope on the (in)famous Wired Equivalent Privacy, better known as WEP. If you don’t know the details yet, this chapter will provide you with all the facts of the WEP problem. As expected from a relatively new publication (a couple of months old), the authors spend a a great deal of writing on Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), Robust Security Network (RSN) and 802.11i.

Now comes the moment for the more advanced readers, as the authors go deeper into wireless security specifics, such as: access control with 802.1X, EAP and RADIUS; and major authentication methods including Kerberos and Transport Layer Security. Fortifying the WPA and RSN chapter, there is even more information on these topics in the way of a a semi practical guide through key hierarchy.

After the keys are generated in a secure manner, it’s time to choose a good security protocol. TKIP, or Temoporal Key Integrity Protocol, is a solution that can be used with the current infrastructure (WEP based security). TKIP is covered quite decently, as it looks like a number of wireless users will be stuck with it for some time (until spending some more money for a solution that will use 802.11i by default).

“Wi-Fi Security in Real World” is the title of the last part of the book. It is opened with an informative chapter dealing with public wireless hotspots. As one of the authors is especially experienced in this field, the mentioned 15 pages long chapter proves to be a great information piece for the future public wireless network deployers. What follows next is a combo of chapters dealing with known attacks of special interest to WLAN administrators and the actual tools the attacker will use during his foul-play “campaign”. If you like reading Information Security literature, you are sure familiar with Sun Tzu wisdom, which is often used for chapter openings. His “Know your enemy” thought opens a guide through wireless sniffers and tools of that kind. As expected, this place hosts information on Netstumbler, Kismet, BSD Airtools and AirSnort. All of these tools receive the same treatment with the appropriate screenshots (unfortunately one of the Kismet screen grabs was duplicated).

Open Source solutions receive a fair deal of exposure throughout “Real 802.11 Security”. As the authors note, vendors often change their software/hardware products, create new functionalities, etc., the last chapter of the book concentrates on some actual open source installation scenarios. Two specific projects covered gere include OpenSSL and FreeRADIUS.

Final thoughts

“Real 802.11 Security” is surely one of the best books dealing with topics on wireless network security. After reading the “About the authors” paragraph of this review, you can immediately find out that when two individuals with such experience combine their efforts, the result must be a successful publication.

If you are still trying to find the wireless security book that would suite all your needs, maybe you should take a look at “Real 802.11 Security”. In over more than 400 pages, the authors go deep into both theoretical and practical specifics related to a number of different security levels that can be deployed in a wireless environment.

The book meets everyone’s needs; both beginners and users with wider knowledge on wireless security. Every topic is thoroughly covered and the book itself is well organised and easy to read. You’ve seen what topics are covered throughout the book and I must say that I really found this book an interesting read that offers a number of things, some of which you can’t find in similar publications.

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