Wireless Noise Hampers DefCon; Impact of Non-Wi-Fi Interference Surprises Observers at Hacker Conference
"The wireless attacks we saw--jamming, de-authentication, denial-of-service, MAC spoofing, fake and soft APs--were to be expected, particularly at a hacker conference," said Bruce Hubbert, an AirMagnet engineer who attended DefCon. "We were more surprised to find that an abundance of Bluetooth devices, microwave ovens, 802.11 frequency-hopping devices and Web cameras were more effective at knocking out the conference's wireless network."
“If applications such as voice-over-Wi-Fi, RFID and wireless gaming are to gain widespread acceptance, these interference issues will need to be better addressed by the industry.”
The AirMagnet representatives used one of the company's newest products, a laptop-based spectrum analyzer, to identify specific sources of interference, and used the company's popular Enterprise and Mobile wireless analysis solutions to measure their impact on network availability. The spectrum analyzer identified a unique jamming device that targeted the 5 GHz Wi-Fi band used by 802.11a devices, traditionally thought to be less susceptible to RF interference than the 2.4 GHz band used by more popular 802.11b and 802.11g devices. The jamming device succeeded in temporarily preventing any 802.11a traffic from reaching the local network. Hubbert noted that the interference issues observed at DefCon were not unique to the conference environment and could pose even greater problems for Wi-Fi's newer applications.
"Voice-over-IP and video are far less tolerant of interference than data traffic," he said. "If applications such as voice-over-Wi-Fi, RFID and wireless gaming are to gain widespread acceptance, these interference issues will need to be better addressed by the industry."
More information about AirMagnet's observations at DefCon, including a graphical representation of wireless interference at the convention, is available on the Web at http://www.airmagnet.com/assets/AirMagnet_Spectrum_DefCon.jpg.
Founded in 2001, AirMagnet, Inc. provides the most trusted WLAN management and security software systems in handheld, laptop and enterprise configurations. Used by IT professionals at more than 3,500 companies worldwide--including 66 of the Fortune 100--in manufacturing, financial, retail, service, health care, utility, transportation, education and government sectors, AirMagnet solves Wi-Fi connection problems, tracks down unauthorized access, simplifies site surveys, and locks in unprecedented levels of network performance, security and reliability. Additional information about AirMagnet and its products is available on the Web at www.AirMagnet.com.
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