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What's the best way to provide Wi-Fi guest network security?

Expert Kevin Beaver explains the steps enterprises should take to ensure secure guest wireless networks for visitors and the enterprise alike.

I read a survey that purports most organizations fail to provide proper guest network security. What are some of...

the best methods to provide adequate Wi-Fi security for guest users?

These are interesting survey findings indeed. However, I'm never too surprised seeing such studies when they're sponsored by product vendors. I perform many internal network security assessments each year and see fairly robust guest wireless configurations handled by systems from Meraki (Cisco), Aruba Networks and the like. Many businesses I've seen ensure guest network security by physically segmenting them away from the internal LAN and often routing them through a dedicated Internet connection.

The main problem I see with this approach is that the same security controls present inside the corporate network (i.e., Web filtering, enterprise firewall, monitoring/alerting) are often not protecting the wireless environment in the same ways. So, whose responsibility is it to ensure the wireless network is safe? It depends on your approach to risk. Are you evaluating risk in terms of your users or in terms of your own internal network? Most IT shops are concerned about the latter.

Outside of using an enterprise-grade wireless intrusion prevention system, keeping it patched and tested, and tying that environment into your proactive monitoring or security information and event monitoring system, I'm not convinced there's a simple way to protect everyone from each other, especially since you don't have control over the endpoints.

The issue is, once you start locking down guest wireless, you'll get complaints and can experience various problems that can tie up help desk and related IT resources. In the end, your business needs to decide whether it makes sense to spend time, money and effort attempting to secure something that may not be truly securable.

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This was last published in June 2015

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