NextComm: Key Hopping to help secure 802.11 networks

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NextComm Inc. today announced the launch of its Key Hopping technology, which it says will improve the security of wireless networks that utilize the 802.11a and 802.11b standards. Apple's AirPort technology utilizes 802.11b. And while NextComm's announcement doesn't directly herald a new consumer product that can be installed in Macs or PCs, it may offer wireless network users some peace of mind in the coming months.

Recent news articles have highlighted security flaws with the Wired Equivalent Protocol (WEP), the security standard present in 802.11 networks. Several products have recently seen distribution that enable users to crack the encryption scheme used by such networks, sometimes in as little as 15 minutes, depending on the volume of network traffic.

NextComm explained that its Key Hopping security system is based on MD5, the same technology used to secure credit card authentication.

"When you're talking about security, you're really talking about two elements -- the strength of the lock, and how difficult it is for the attacker to find the key," explained NextComm CEO Jerry Wang. "The way WEP uses the lock is inadequate because the key patterns generated are easily identified. With Key Hopping, we use the MD5 algorithm and fast key management techniques to increase the complexity of the resulting key patterns. So, they can't be analyzed as quickly -- it would take years to crack."

The first product NextComm will make its Key Hopping technology available on is the NC7010, a media access controller (MAC) designed to support 802.11b networks. The company plans to work with OEMS to implement the technology on both end user access cards and access points.

NextComm said that the NC7010 would undergo trials in October. The company hopes to see wireless LAN products hit production by the end of the year.

This story, "NextComm: Key Hopping to help secure 802.11 networks" was originally published by PCWorld.

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