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The ubiquitous cell phone can solve WiFi security issues

Published in Silicon Valley North, February 18, 2005

Your enterprise is set to embrace a ground-breaking hi-tech offering. It provides clear, tangible results – including increased sales and happy customers – yet has intangible security issues that must be addressed. If you can’t hold it, hear it or taste it, how do you make sure your product isn’t stolen?

That has been the challenge facing WiFi enabled businesses, preventing them from reaping the additional benefits of providing WiFi to their customers and visitors. These benefits include increased revenues, customer loyalty and overall productivity.

The numbers outline this growing phenomenon:

- There will be one million WiFi enabled companies in North America by the end of 2005.
- Sales of notebook computers are soaring in North America and, by the end of 2005, there will be 50 million in use.

Unfortunately, not all companies offering WiFi to their guests have countered its potential for security leaks. And, as the numbers grow – of both users and WiFi enabled businesses – problems, too, will grow. The challenge is to provide security in a cost-effective manner. How does a business reduce the risk associated with anonymous visitor access while also ensuring the cost of identifying and authorizing a visitor does not become cost prohibitive?

Traceability is the solution. It is cost effective and easily implemented. By joining North American society’s two most prevalent mobile communication tools – the cell phone and the notebook computer – WiFi guest access becomes easy and secure.

WiFi visitors receive passwords via cell phones and with the text comes a subtle, but powerful, message that actions can be traced. Past problems, from hijacked connections resulting in the proliferation of viruses and SPAM, to accessibility of data and resources, are alleviated.

Some solutions draw on the enterprise’s resources, including administrative and IT personnel, to provide guest access. This can result in an experience that is expensive, slow and frustrating to all. 

With the benefits of WiFi clear to the corporate culture, from cost savings to increased employee productivity, security issues are the last hurdles to deployment. Currently, most visitor access solutions to WiFi networks do not address authentication or security issues. With the growing awareness of the potential for problems, corporations are working to mitigate the risk. 

Similar to placing a courtesy telephone in the reception area and limiting its range to local calls only, authenticated WiFi can address the needs of guests and gate keepers. Forwarding passwords to guests, via their cell phones, allows the business to certify the individual’s identity and resolve security issues.

Visitors want simple, free, high speed wireless access to the Internet, whether they’re in a business setting, a hotel or coffee shop. Corporations want to avoid security risks as well as increased IT and administrative costs. Capable WiFi enabled companies provide a complete service and security overview.

Although the hospitality industry has been an obvious supporter, reaping immediate benefits, other sectors embracing WiFi are: Health Care, Education and Government. Professional Services firms may also profit from offering WiFi in meeting rooms, as clients will enjoy easy Internet access, while the company maintains its security protocol.

The time to address protection is prior to a break-in. That’s why security over the Internet is currently a top area of growth. From CEO’s to employees and guests to wireless carriers and network administrators, all seek to enjoy secure cyber experiences.

Probal Lala, CEO, AirRoamer Inc., is an experienced operations and technology executive with a background as a senior executive in Canada’s largest telephone company. He can be reached at

Published in Silicon Valley North, February 18, 2005

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