Q

Should Apple iPhones automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks?

Well-managed enterprises should have functions in place to prevent an unauthorized mobile device, like the iPhone, from connecting to the network. In this expert response, Mike Chapple reveals some simple network security measures that organizations can take.

A number of today's handheld devices and cellular phones, including the Apple iPhone, automatically seek out and connect to Wi-Fi networks. How dangerous is this behavior, and how should enterprises react, especially regarding user-owned devices?
I'm not too concerned about this feature being a threat to the enterprise, since well-managed enterprises should have functions in place to prevent unauthorized devices from connecting to the network. The simplest security measure organizations can take is to implement Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA or WPA2) encryption on the network. The encryption requires users to provide a security key before connecting to the network, preventing unauthorized users from attaching devices to a wireless infrastructure.

More advanced products are available for larger enterprises where key management issues make straight WPA impractical. For example, 802.1x technology allows administrators to require individual user authentication against a centralized authentication service, such as Active Directory. Such a mechanism facilitates the management of authorization privileges. Devices that don't support 802.1x may use "captive portal" mechanisms -- similar...

to those found in hotels -- to manage authentication through a Web-based interface.

More information:

  • Executive Editor Dennis Fisher explains why users should switch to the more secure Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2).
  • Are iPhone security risks any different than those of other mobile devices?
  • This was first published in October 2007

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