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[cdn-nucl-l] Nuclear lab bans wireless networks
Posted on ZD Net UK News on January 31, 2002 and at:
Seems like an excellent decision at LL.
Nuclear lab bans wireless networks
13:21 Thursday 31st January 2002
Alorie Gilbert, CNET News.com
The potential security threat of wireless networks was enough to make
one nuclear laboratory take them offline
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory said it has banned the use of
wireless computer networks at its facilities over concerns that security
flaws in such systems could leave classified information vulnerable to
The lab, which produces research on nuclear weapons and other national
defence technologies, disabled the two wireless local area networks that
were in use at its Livermore, California, campus as a result of the ban,
instituted in mid-January, said David Schwoegler, a spokesman for the
lab. One of the wireless networks at the lab was used at its waste
Security experts have warned that wireless networks pose a serious
security threat to businesses using them because information passed
along a wireless LAN is often unprotected and easily intercepted.
About 30 percent of all companies with a computer network also have a
wireless network, according to Gartner Dataquest. In some cases,
companies are unaware they have one because employees set them up on
their own in order to take their laptops to nearby meetings and
lunchrooms while remaining connected to email, the Web and network
The Livermore lab issued the ban in order to review wireless LAN
technologies and policies, and not as a result of any particular
incident related to the networks, said Schwoegler. He said the Los
Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico may enforce a similar ban. The
Los Alamos Lab could not be reached for comment.
Schwoegler calls the possibility of eventually allowing wireless
networks back into the labs "a big question" because nearly 80 percent
of employees there have access to high-security areas of the lab.
The mobile nature of laptops and Internet-enabled personal digital
assistants, the latter of which were banned from the lab last year,
makes controlling their use within high-security areas very difficult.
The lab bans the use of all wireless communications equipment, including
cell phones, in high-security areas.
Because wireless LANs are cheap and easy to install, it would be hard
for most companies to enforce a ban on them, said Gartner analyst Ken
Most wireless network gear provides adequate security mechanisms, said
Dulaney. The problem is that different vendors use proprietary standards
that are incompatible and create security holes when used together. That
issue should be resolved by the end of the year, when the Wireless
Ethernet Compatibility Alliance, a standards group, delivers a
specification for advanced encryption and security protocols for the
widely adopted 802.11 standard, said Dulaney.
Dulaney, a mobile computing expert, knows of no major security incidents
that have occurred as a result of intrusion into wireless networks. He
doesn't blame national laboratories for snuffing out the technology,
seeing as they work with highly guarded information. But it doesn't
indicate a trend in the business world, he said.