Beefing Up Analysis By Hand

By Eric Griffith

November 17, 2004

Unlike other WLAN analyzer companies, Network Chemistry started in the enterprise but is now going to offer a handheld (laptop) solution.

Most WLAN analyzer companies, like WildPackets and AirMagnet, started with a handheld unit for examining the air, then moved up to a distributed, enterprise-wide scanning system. Network Chemistry of Palo Alto, Calif., is doing the reverse. This week, it introduced its first portable scanning and analysis tool, plus some new features for its RFprotect Enterprise, a wireless intrusion protection system.

RFprotect Mobile is software that will run on a Windows laptop connected to a Wi-Fi network. Network Chemistry says this gives field engineers the same capabilities and interface that the admins are using with the enterprise version, but stresses that the integration between the mobile and enterprise RFProtects is the key.

"They'll synchronize [data] between each other," says CEO Rob Markovich, adding that his competition can't claim that. "This is something customers really wanted."

One thing unique to the mobile version is the RFlocate module, which can triangulate the position of rogues without help from sensors. Instead, it uses numerous sampling points taken when the laptop is in motion. The company says this method is far more accurate.

In the distributed RFProtect Enterprise product (which does use sensors), Markovich says they've beefed up their rogue intrusion protection with RFshield, which "lets you, over the air, disable malicious devices and rogue APs." He says that this takes care of more than just APs—it would even prevent someone out in the parking lot from getting access with a wireless PDA or laptop. This is done by essentially doing a wireless packet-based Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack against the intruder, which can usually cause issues for clients that are supposed to be on the network. Network Chemistry claims to have a unique surgical-precision ability with its DDoS, in a way that doesn't take up much bandwidth.

Also beefed up is the product's auditing for various types of industry compliance—everything from HIPPA in healthcare to various Department of Defense needs—through use of 30+ standard reports, covering everything from very specific items to very general. The software can generate the reports citing security issues or fixes as interpreted by RFprotect, and these reports stay on file until needed in future real-world audits.

Finally, better RF environmental analysis is built into a new module for tracking signal degradation and noise on both 802.11b/g (2.4GHz) and 11a (5GHz) networks. "It helps troubleshoot all sorts of issues," says Markovich. "It's a real-time graphical view that shows things relative to noise and interference. This is a new direction for the company."

Markovich says he sees third party wireless security and network management coming down to a three-horse race between his company and competitors AirMagnet and AirDefense. Network Chemistry would seem to be the rear horse in terms of buzz, but he says the world doesn't know as much about his company because it has five major OEM partners using the RFprotect technology to build their "in-house" wireless IDS. "We're selling to those who had IDS in wired but need it in wireless," says Markovich. He can't reveal who they are, but says many are "major players."

One statistic he's particularly fond of: 25 percent of Network Chemistry's customers have a "no wireless" policy in place—such companies prefer to use RFprotect to keep out all the Wi-Fi they can, just in case.



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