Wi-Fi optimize

Wi-Fi security for road warriors: AirDefense style

Being able to detect erroneous configurations, malicious threats, and effectively stopping them gives a certain peace of mind that road warriors will appreciate.

For the past few months, I've been working on an informal series about the trials and tribulations of using public Wi-Fi networks. From the positive responses, it appears that the security tips have been helpful. With TechRepublic road warriors now savvy about Wi-Fi security, I should be happy. Well almost, there's one essential element left to take care of.

Everything in the series thus far has been concerned about implementing security. What's still needed is a very alert monitoring application that sits in the background making sure everything is working properly. Road warriors have enough to deal with, so let's put this particular concern in the very capable hands of AirDefense and their free application called AirDefense Personal Lite.

How does it work?

AirDefense Personal Lite runs on Wi-Fi enabled computers, monitoring for malevolent activity (hacker pen tests), inadvertent wireless activity (ad hoc association), and Wi-Fi device and application misconfiguration (security lapses or noncorporate policies). If Personal Lite detects an anomaly, it immediately notifies the user that something is amiss. The following image depicts an alert notifying the user that encryption is disabled.

airdefense11.JPG

The application can also be configured to automatically disable the Wi-Fi connection if a certain predefined condition is encountered. This really helps mitigate user-invoked security problems and, even more importantly, attack vectors being explored by hackers. The following image depicts some of the many configuration settings that are available.

airdefense2.JPG

The myriad of configurable parameters available is not what I would consider normal for freeware but is to be expected from AirDefense.

AirDefense Enterprise

AirDefense also has an enterprise version that allows integration and is controlled by AirDefense's Personal Central Manager. By using the enterprise version, several additional benefits become apparent:

  • Extends the wireless security perimeter to mobile users: 24x7 protection inside the enterprise and on the road.
  • Ability to define and enforce wireless security policy (corporate or regulatory) on laptops.
  • Detection and enforcement of Windows Zero Configuration Client settings.

Final thoughts

I use Personal Lite on all my notebooks and recommend it to anyone who uses Wi-Fi. Being able to detect erroneous configurations, malicious threats, and effectively stopping them gives a certain peace of mind that road warriors will appreciate.

Finally, I thought it might be helpful to link the previous articles:

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Information is my field...Writing is my passion...Coupling the two is my mission.

23 comments
Joed_M
Joed_M

I tried this program on a Dell Latitude D620 under WinXP Pro SP2 with ZoneAlarm. It promptly completely sequestered my computer from all communication over my wireless card even though I told it to accept SSIDs without encryption. I was not able to find any configuration that restored communication. It also would not let me uninstall it (error 1922). I was able to reach AirDefense and learn how to uninstall (doesn't seem to be documented): 1)Through the tray icon, stop the service; 2) Through the tray icon exit the program; and then 3) use Add/remove to remove the program. This removed the program on my computer, but left the entry in the Add/Remove list. Note that the installation should also create a system restore point that you can revert back to.

Ruddie
Ruddie

Will it work for Vista ?

Rawbit
Rawbit

Interesting to note that AirDefense tells you before the download that the Lite version is not supported, but when you get to the download page there is a note saying, "If you have any questions or difficulty with this installation, please contact us at support@airdefense.net. Anyway, hope this links makes it easier for WinXP (SP2) users to download without filling out a form. Product Download: Please download AirDefense Personal zip file from the link on our web page and install it: http://www.airdefense.net/products/adpersonal/AirDefensePersonal.zip

pacomj60
pacomj60

I have tried to download and test this product only to have it's website take me in circles. I would like the product placed on the download section of Techrepublic as a seperate item. Combat Colonel

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Do you think this program is of any help or is it just AirDefense's attempt to garner interest in their other products?

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I'm sorry to say that to the best of my knowledge there isn't a build available for Vista as of yet. I have asked AirDefense and they are working on it.

micwarren21
micwarren21

I downloaded and installed. A little confusing that they didn't show a lite version until after unzipped and installed. After shutting down my machine and going on line again. I was prompted for my 26 Hex Key. Had to search my house for the key. I would have assumed once loaded, it would have recognized my own secure network. Uninstalled it.

gerutzen
gerutzen

I also went in circles, but within a few minutes received an email with a link for the download. Unfortunately, the AirDefense software is for Windows XP and not Vista.

bayliss_peter
bayliss_peter

I have an evil twin type problem on our club network so tried loading Air Defense Lite on one of the PCs. Unfortunately it incorrectly flagged the PC as allowing Ad Hoc connections and being connected to an Ad Hoc network. So I am not impressed.

dthomas
dthomas

Michael, Thank you for taking the time to review and write about our product, AirDefense Personal Lite. We developed the "Lite" version of AirDefense Personal for individuals that frequently use wireless and need additional protection. We do hope it drives interest in other AirDefense products; however, our sales team does not regularly pursue individuals that download AirDefense Personal Lite. We focus our sales efforts on Global 2500 companies, government, and defense organizations. As you noted, we have not created a version of AirDefense Personal Lite for Vista. We are considering it; however, I do not have a timeline I can provide. When a Vista version is available, we will make sure to post an update to TechRepublic. A few individuals mentioned having trouble registering to download the software. We are looking into the issue and will correct it as soon as possible. We are also going to clearly post a warning that the software is not Vista compatible. We have a great team of engineers at AirDefense, and we are always happy to hear when people find our products useful. Thanks again for taking the time to post your review & comments online. Kind regards, David Thomas VP, Product Strategy AirDefense, Inc.

techrepublic
techrepublic

Good question. Do you know of any good alternatives? Ultimately, I am interested in trustworthy genuine security tools, and would like people to share about what they find useful. Prefer free, but if good, I don't mind paying a reasonable fee :) Paul

CliffMcC
CliffMcC

I also would have liked to had a version that supports Windows Vista. Since I'm headed to the far east for a quite a while, I could have used something like this to feel a bit more secure. Looks like I'll have to search for something else.

alan williams
alan williams

I downloaded it and installed it under Vista. The unistall routine would not work because it was running as a service; and the sevice could not be stopped. I also went round in circles about the download as well as the unistall. the program alaso did not add itself to the 'all programs' menu. Nice idea, but needs a lot more work.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Is that PC configured to allow Ad hoc connections? Are other PC configured to allow Ad hoc connections? If so there very well could be Ad hoc links being setup without any user intervention

Marty-7
Marty-7

I was wondering when they'd make their debut to the astounded masses...

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

One reason I like Personal Lite is its uniqueness. I don't know of another client-side application that has all of the same features. As for trustworthy, AirDefense has a solid reputation and is used extensively by the DoD. There are network-centric security applications hosted on Wi-Fi managing switches or controllers that poll all of the APs for security concerns. AirDefense and most enterprise Wi-Fi systems have that technology available. In this article, I was trying to focus on the individual Wi-Fi notebooks that are vulnerable when public/hostile Wi-fi networks. Most Wi-Fi security applications aren?t setup like Personal Lite. Before Personal Lite, I used firewall or IDS applications to try and get similar results. The advantage to Personal Lite is that it?s designed specifically for Wi-Fi monitoring which I see as very helpful. I'm sorry to not be of more help. If you describe your specific need, I should be able to get more detailed as to whether an enterprise solution would be a better fit or not.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I apologize, as I should have mentioned that the application is not ready for Vista yet. I also have issues with their methodology of getting Personal Lite. There is very little data available about it on their website.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I'll pass this information along to AirDefense. Hopefully we will get an answer and or a solution.

bayliss_peter
bayliss_peter

I installed Air Defense Lite on a HP Pavillion with WinXP SP2 and a Conceptronic 54Mbps wireless USB adapter. WZC was disabled by the Conceptronic Wireless Network Config Utility which was set to "Infrastructure Only" in the same way as Windows wireless network properties. Despite this, Air Defense Lite reported "Alert WLAN AdHoc mode enabled" (incorrectly) and also (correctly) that the PC was connected to an unsecured AP and also (???) that the network was not encrypted.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I would very much appreciate hearing about any issues with Personal Lite. I usually forward them to Air Defense. Also, I've noticed that NetStumbler on occasion does not always report Ad hoc networks that are within range. I look forward to hearing about your next visit. Thanks, Michael

bayliss_peter
bayliss_peter

The PC concerned is definitely not configured to allow Ad Hoc connections, neither is any other visible PC. According to Netstumbler there was no Ad Hoc network available at the time I ran Air Defense on the PC, but one did appear later. I will collect more evidence next Monday when I am at the club. Thanks for replying.

techrepublic
techrepublic

I also went round the download loop a couple of times, before realizing I had to wait for an email for the link. :) As I don't use Vista, that is no hassle to me, and I will post my impressions as soon as I have installed this on my Notebooks. I have an HP Core Duo and an Asus eeePC to try it on.