Most Firms Would Not Know If Wireless Networks Were Breached

Resellers have a tremendous opportunity to help customers implement systems that will enable them to tell if their wireless networking security measures are breached it emerged today following the release of an independent survey, carried out for SonicWALL.

Despite the fact that 70 per cent of British organisations are either already using or planning to use wireless connectivity as part of everyday business less than half (44 per cent) have ever had their WLANs audited. Tellingly over a third of respondents (38 per cent) admitted they would have no idea if their wireless networks were breached.

The study of wireless networking issues and attitudes in the UK involved interviews with directors and senior IT managers at more than 400 businesses. By far the majority of participants (47 per cent) represented enterprises with 1000 plus PCs, small-to-medium sized businesses (101 to 999 PCs) made up 39 per cent of respondents while small business accounted for the remainder.

Some of the more interesting statistics to emerge from a reseller perspective include the fact that a proportion of firms see no requirement for wireless networking (13 per cent) while others are unclear about the technologys benefits (16 per cent). With a quarter of firms rating wireless as a top 5 technology issue affecting their company and a further 30 percent ranking it in their top ten there is clearly still plenty of opportunity left for resellers to sell wireless solutions.

Asked who benefits most from WLAN access, nearly three quarters of respondents (72 per cent) said it was employees through improved access to the Internet and corporate LAN. Other suggested benefits included departmental specific functions (stock taking, order entry and so on) and Internet access for visitors. Each of these polled votes from around a third (29 per cent) of participants.

Security is still the single biggest fear factor with wireless technology. More than three quarters (77 per cent) of firms cited it as a key concern although management (30 per cent) and cost (24 per cent) also ranked in the top three worries. Interestingly less than one fifth (16 per cent) failed to see any benefit from wireless compared with more than 30 per cent in a similar SonicWALL-backed survey published a year ago.

Around half the survey participants have already deployed wireless local area networking (WLAN) while a further 20 per cent are considering implementing it in the coming 12 months. Almost two thirds of firms (64 per cent) named flexibility in their top three reasons for the increasing popularity of wireless networking. Other key motivating factors were productivity (37 per cent) and support for business change (33 per cent).

Asked to rank the primary requirements of a WLAN solution in order of importance just over one third (36 per cent) of participants rated seamless roaming as the top priority closely followed by single point of management (34 per cent). On the security side single point of management was rated even more important with almost half (46 per cent) of respondents ranking it as top priority followed by automated policy checking (34 per cent) and enforced IPSec Virtual Private Network (VPN) connectivity (31 per cent).

Revealingly VPN is at the forefront of remote access security, in use by 80 per cent of companies yet only 20 per cent use it for Wireless LAN access. Instead just under half of firms rely on the basic Wireless Encryption Privacy security standard and another 18 per cent use its successor Wireless Protected Access (WPA) in one form or another. This is a little surprising in view of their much publicised flaws.

Use of wireless LANs in the workplace has grown considerably in the last year as this survey shows, said Kevin Thiele, UK managing director for SonicWALL. Most customers have developed security policies for wireless but have yet to make that final link in the chain implementing a security solution with a single point of management that alerts you should a breach occur.

This is a great opportunity for resellers, he added. They must also help to educate the market about the dangers of relying on wireless protocols for security, especially when VPN is in widespread use and offers a much safer alternative.

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