Sydney Uni secures WLAN

With an existing wireless networking infrastructure in place, Sydney University’s Clinical Trials Centre (a research unit of the National Health and Medical Research Council) has implemented a two-factor authentication system while upgrading to the 802.11a standard.

The centre’s network manager Dinh Tran said most users on wireless love it.

“Our network has nine access points serving some 50 users,” Tran said. “Reception is good even with partitions in the office although a slight loss can happen. With an open plan office fewer access points are required.”

Moving to a secure wireless network was part of an infrastructure upgrade and relocation to a new building.

“Initially, our network was all D-Link but we replaced it with Cisco equipment which uses the 802.11a specification,” Tran said. “Also, Odyssey, the wireless security software we have implemented, requires 802.11a.”

According to Tran, Odyssey is “plug and play” software, which needs to be installed on the server and each client.

“The first laptop was a long setup taking between one and two hours,” he said. “Once the configurations options were set with first laptop, the others were easily set up.”

Odyssey – developed by Funk Software – uses 802.1x-based security, which Tran described as “very good at authentication”.

“Odyssey does two-factor authentication, tunnels all the data, and checks the MAC address of the client,” he said. “At around $5000 for 25 users it is very cheap and free software upgrades are available.”

Tran said the perceived security issues of wireless networks in general were of little concern.

“If implemented correctly, wireless can be more secure than a wired network,” he said. “If everyone is so concerned with wireless security, then technologies like these will become standard.”

To secure the network, the centre contracted inTechnology for the service tasks. Mark Winter, director of sales and marketing at inTechnology, said Odyssey is an end-to-end solution that includes client and server software ensuring only authorised users can connect to the network.

“Organisation such as NHMRC, BHP and EDS have made the decision to specify Odyssey and Steel Belted Radius Solutions into their WLAN security,” Winter said. “As a vendor-independent supplier of 802.1x wireless security solutions, we can deploy Odyssey and Steel Belted Radius into any network running any hardware that supports 802.1x, and can authenticate against any legacy backend database, so the ease of deployment is also paramount.”

Winter said the interest and deployment of the company’s 802.1x solution has increased 10-fold in the past 12 months.

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