Creating Seamless Security

By Adam Stone

January 30, 2006

With many irons in the networking fire, Seamless Wi-Fi has one major goal: to try and make things easier and more secure for its end users.

At first glance, Seamless Wi-Fi looks like it's all over the map, with initiatives so diverse that it's hard to see the common thread.

But there is method in the motions of this Las Vegas-based company, an aggregator of Wi-Fi products and services with offerings touching on hotspots, peer-to-peer networks and other product groups.

Underneath it all, the company is looking to change the way the wireless world thinks about security.

"Given the current complexity of security implements, a great number of users simply choose not to use them," explains Rich Schineller, a private consultant who serves as spokesperson for the organization. Seamless Wi-Fi hopes to alter the landscape by offering security products that require practically no user involvement at all.

Analysts say anything that improves the Wi-Fi security situation is likely to find a welcome audience. At Jupiter Research, research associate Ina Sebastian points to a recent study showing 39 percent of paying hotspot users worry about security, as compared to just 28 who are concerned about cost. Clearly, security is a hot-button issue in the hotspot world, where "evil twins" and newly-found flaws in the way Windows connects to networks can give knowledgable users the shakes, and confuse the unknowing into doing something dangerous to their data.

Founded in May 2005, the ten-person Seamless Wi-Fi offers three products to address the  problems.

  • Through Seamless Skyy-fi, the company is rolling out hotspots in hotels and other business traveler destinations, and already has installations in Marriott, Ramada, Comfort Inn and Best Western properties. Beyond connectivity, these terminals advertise heightened security as a core offering.
  • Seamless Peer 2 Peer looks to overcome the "terrible reputation" of the P2P medium by taking it beyond stolen music and turning it into a legitimate business tool, Schineller says. To do that, the company is striving to convince corporate users that such a network can be made — wait for it —  secure. It claims Mitre Corp. and SAIC among existing clients.
  • Alpha Internet, just launched in December 2005, offers a hosted version of the same security mechanisms that drive the company's other offerings.

So what are those much-touted mechanisms, and how are they different from everyone else's security tools?

In a sense, they aren't very different. It's the same encryption business, the same public key authentication routine. What is different is the method of implementation.

Rather than asking the end user to institute diverse security measures (and we know how often that doesn't happen), Seamless Wi-Fi builds its security protocols directly into a standalone, hands-off product.

This security framework, known as Phenom Virtual Internet Extranet, provides Sarbox and HIPAA-compliant secure peer mail, chat, file transfer, and remote PC access in a two-megabyte download. Phenom's API also supports secure VoIP telephony, video conferencing and white boarding. Phenom P2P is in development with OrionsWave, and should be completed by June of this year.

With Phenom running on a connected server, a user need only download and install the application, and all the needed security protocols snap into place, with no further twiddling needed. "The user doesn’t have to enable all this," Schineller says. "You don't have to have your IT department integrate it. We take care of all that, so what you get is transparent background security, but at the highest level."

The Alpha Internet service expands the potential market considerably by making the technology available to those who lack the physical infrastructure to accommodate Phenom. This hosted version delivers Phenom to clients who do not have Oracle-compatible equipment and do not wish to purchase their own Oracle server.

Beyond hotels, the company has its eye on a number of potential verticals. The product's HIPAA compliance, for instance, opens up possibilities in the medical realm. "There are any number of medical campuses with five or ten buildings where they are moving medical data from one building to another," Schineller says. Stable wireless security could be a boon there.

SOX compliance opens up possibilities in any vertical where financial records are transferred, and the company is also looking at possible implementations in the realms of defense and security applications.

With all these irons in the fire, company executives are optimistic. Schineller predicts the company will be cash flow positive by the end of 2006. Considering all the many contestants in the wireless security space, though, it's a fair bet that Seamless Wi-Fi will meet some competition along the way.

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