How does 802.1X help wireless security?
The 13-year-old Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) protocol has been discredited so thoroughly that its authentication and encryption capabilities are not considered sufficient for use in enterprise networks. In response to the WEP fiasco, many wireless LAN vendors have latched onto IEEE 802.1X standard to help authenticate and secure both wireless and wired LANs. The wildcard with 802.1X protocol is interoperability.
802.1X authentication helps mitigate many of the risks involved in using WEP. For example, one of the biggest problems with WEP is the long life of keys and the fact that they are shared among many users and are well known. With 802.1X, each station could have a unique WEP key for every session. The Authenticator (Wireless Access Point) could also choose to change the WEP key very frequently, such as once every 10 minutes or every 1000 frames. 802.1X does not guarantee improved security. For example, an authenticator might never change the key it hands out to each supplicant. Or, the network manager might select an authentication method that does not allow for distribution of WEP keys. 802.1X does, however, give the informed network manager the potential to design and implement a more secure WLAN.
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