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Ruckus Wireless, Sunnyvale, Calif., been granted a patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for an innovation that radically simplifies the configuration, administration and strength of wireless network security. This patent is one of nearly two dozen patents granted to Ruckus with dozens more pending approval.

The new technique, commonly known as Dynamic Pre-Shared Key (PSK), effectively eliminates tedious and time-consuming manual installation of encryption keys, passphrases or user credentials needed to securely access a wireless network. Dynamic PSK changes this model by dynamically generating strong, unique security keys for each authenticated user, automatically installing these encryption keys on end user devices with little or no human intervention.

With the explosive growth of Wi-Fi networks around the world, organizations have struggled with how to streamline the complexity and cost of implementing robust wireless security. Many companies have used a passphrase that must be shared among many users and manually entered into client devices. If this "pre-shared key" becomes known or stolen it must be changed for all users and manually re-entered into every client device.

A popular alternative to the pre-shared key approach is an elaborate security framework (e.g. 802.1X) that requires information, such as unique certificates or supplicants, to be installed on every user device. Deploying such systems requires a high level of technical expertise as well as ongoing technical support for users.

"With Wi-Fi there has historically been two ends of the security spectrum," said Steve Martin, VP of Engineering for Ruckus Wireless. "On one end is the simple approach that makes life easy for network managers but creates potential security concerns for companies. On the other end is a very robust but often overwhelming security framework, such as 802.1X, that requires a tremendous amount of time and effort to implement and administer. We've created the best of both worlds with a user-friendly and low maintenance method for providing a high level of wireless security."

Using Dynamic PSK, organizations can now streamline the administration of wireless security with the confidence of knowing that their wireless network is protected. Integrated into all Ruckus ZoneDirector wireless LAN controllers at no cost, Dynamic PSK technology is device-independent and works on laptops and handheld Wi-Fi enabled devices.

How Does Dynamic PSK Work?

When a user initially accesses the wireless network, they are authenticated through a captive portal on the Ruckus ZoneDirector. This information is checked against any standard back-end authentication server such as Active Directory, RADIUS or an internal database on the ZoneDirector.

Once the user has successfully authenticated, Dynamic PSK technology automatically generates a unique encryption key for that user device. This key is downloaded to the client and automatically configured, along with the requisite Wi-Fi information. This eliminates users from having to manually configure anything and dramatically reduces the technical support burden on IT staff.

Each Dynamic PSK is bound to a specific client device and has a configurable lifetime. With Dynamic PSK, organizations control the length of time that each key is valid in increments of hours, days, weeks or months. Once the key expires, users must re-authenticate. If a user device is stolen, others on the network are not at risk. Network managers only need to delete the compromised user or device record in their authentication database.

"The simplicity of these technologies, like Dynamic PSK, truly changes the game for wireless deployments," said Matthew Crandall, Associate Director of Information Services at Johnson College in Pennsylvania. "Dynamic PSK has been a remarkable time-saving tool for us -- eliminating the hassle of configuring each and every end user device while still giving us state-of-the-art Wi-Fi security.

"Like a lot of organizations, we demanded strong wireless security but didn't want the management hassles associated with it. Dynamic PSK breaks through the conventional problems that have inhibited implementing a simple and strong wireless security architecture that easily scales," concluded Crandall.

Johnson College operates a campus-wide 802.11n Wi-Fi network across 13 buildings. When new users access an open "provisioning" wireless network (SSID), they use secure HTTPS to authenticate against Johnson College's user directory. Once authenticated, user devices are automatically configured with a unique encryption key and required SSID information. The devices then securely connect to the appropriate Johnson College wireless network.

About Ruckus Wireless, Inc.

Headquartered in Silicon Valley, Ruckus Wireless is a manufacturer of advanced "Smart Wi-Fi" technology and wireless LAN (WLAN) systems used by enterprises and carriers around the world. Ranked as the top telecom company in the 2009 Inc. 500 list and named a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer, Ruckus has developed patented technology that uniquely extends signal range and allows for consistently reliable distribution of delay-sensitive multimedia content and services over standard 802.11 Wi-Fi. Its flagship product line, ZoneFlex, is the first centralized wireless LAN system to combine state-of-the-art Wi-Fi smart antenna arrays and wireless meshing to deliver maximum range and reliable performance at the lowest cost. Leading broadband operators use its MediaFlex multimedia routers to extend wireless digital services such as IPTV throughout subscribers' homes worldwide. Ruckus has raised approximately $51 million from premier investors such as Sequoia Capital, Focus Ventures, Sutter Hill, Motorola, T-Ventures, Telus, Mitsui and others. Ruckus Wireless is led by Ms. Selina Lo, president and chief executive officer.

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Publication:LAN Product News
Date:Jun 1, 2010

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