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Wireless security concerns unfounded, 3Com survey finds

  • 16 January, 2008 10:37

<p>AUSTRALIA– January 16, 2008 –Security concerns of enterprises planning to deploy wireless networks may be unfounded, according to a recent study conducted in South Asia by networking company 3Com.</p>
<p>In a survey of 2,500 companies from five Asian countries covering Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore, 3Com has found that organisations that have already moved to wireless networks encounter little or no significant security issues at all.</p>
<p>More than 40 per cent of respondents in the 3Com study had “deployed wireless networks in selected areas” within their organisations and have cited security as their most pressing concern, followed by network reliability. However, the study revealed that the threats these enterprises face do not vary greatly from the common viruses and worm intrusions experienced by companies without wireless networks deployed.</p>
<p>“This survey debunks the commonly held belief that wireless networks are less secure than wired networks,” said Peter Chai, Vice President &amp; General Manager (Asia Pacific), 3Com Corp. “What’s even more interesting is that some of these organisations did not face any security threats and have actually found that security of their networks have either improved or remained unchanged when they moved to wireless.”</p>
<p>The survey also indicated that security and reliability concerns of enterprises polled are closely linked to the use of consumer grade wireless networking equipment that is less secure and has limited connectivity.</p>
<p>“In many cases, the use of centrally controlled wireless architecture may actually improve network security due to their ability to block rogue access points and enforce better network admission controls,” Chai added.</p>
<p>Leading Adopters</p>
<p>Countries in the region are at different stages of wireless deployment and developed countries are leading the way. Singapore (21 per cent) and Australia (20 per cent) have the most number of organisations with company-wide wireless networks deployed compared to Indonesia (10 per cent) Malaysia (15 per cent) and the Philippines (11 per cent).</p>
<p>Developing countries have the most number of organisations with no plans or are considering future plans to use wireless networking, the majority of them belonging to the SMB market. However, it is worth noting that the percentage of companies with fully deployed wireless networks was the same across different enterprise categories.</p>
<p>The education sector leads wireless adoption in the region with as much as 86 per cent of respondents having full or partial wireless networks deployed, followed by the government sector with 62 per cent. Interestingly, the financial sector was found least keen to deploy wireless with close to 20 percent having no immediate wireless plans.</p>
<p>“The financial services industry has always been divided on the value of wireless networking. This is largely due to their reluctance to expose sensitive financial information over the air,” Chai noted.</p>
<p>Beyond email</p>
<p>Organisations in the region are using wireless networks predominantly for email, messaging and Internet access. Among the adopters however, Indonesian organisations show greater interest in using the network to run more line of business applications such as salesforce automation, customer relationship, marketing and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).</p>
<p>“There is clearly a need among early and new wireless adopters, especially manufacturers which constituted the largest number or respondents in the survey, to go beyond email and apply more innovative use of their existing wireless infrastructure for such high value applications as location tracking, VoIP over wireless, salesforce automation and CRM applications,” said Chai.</p>
<p>Besides lacking knowledge in using wireless networks beyond email, messaging and Internet access, the majority of enterprises in the region are not up to date with wireless technology trends, specifically the 802.11N WLAN standard that is expected to be significantly faster than previous standards, such as 802.11b and 802.11g.</p>
<p>Nearly half of the respondents surveyed, the majority from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, did not know about 802.11N and its impact on business while about 34 per cent have heard of the standard but did not know how it will affect their business.</p>
<p>VoIP over wireless adoption</p>
<p>Despite Voice over IP over wireless promising greater cost efficiency and productivity gains across all enterprise segments, not all the respondents are seeing its value. For instance, Singapore yielded the highest percentage of organisations that did not have plans to deploy VoIP over wireless while Indonesia has the most number of organisations already leveraging the technology. It is not surprising therefore that nearly half of organisations in Singapore said they do not have plans to deploy VoIP over wireless.</p>
<p>“In countries where mobile calls are affordable, enterprise see little need to sending voice over Wireless LAN,” Chai explained.</p>
<p>The survey also found that company size does not determine the VOIP over wireless deployment decisions as organisations with one to 49 employees and those with more than 500 workers are more open to the deployment compared to organisations with number of staff in between.</p>
<p>Cost benefits are the biggest drawer of VoIP over wireless LAN among SMBs. “Smaller organisations have more open attitude towards VOIP and willing to try more cost effective deployment such as combining consumer grade wireless hardware and commercial VoIP software. These sectors are found to be least concerned about security issues and limited wireless coverage,” Chai said.</p>
<p>Bigger organisations, on the other hand, have fewer cost and management considerations in VoIP over wireless LAN. “It will be simply a matter of running VoIP on top of their existing infrastructure,” he said.</p>

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