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Security Concerns with Wireless Technologies

Clearly, there is the issue of secure communications between points throughout a network with any type of wireless technology. Because the IrDA interface supports direct line of sight, it at first glance would appear to be the more secure of platforms. In fact, both IrDA and Bluetooth are well-attuned to the security requirements of users. IrDA relies on security protocols and authentication/encryption routines at a higher level of the protocol stack, whereas Bluetooth uses an authentication and encryption series of routines in the baseband protocol used for enabling communications. The Bluetooth authentication uses a challenge-response protocol that relies on a PIN that must be matched with the target device on the piconet to successfully connect with. This is also the case with the 802.11b standard when used in its infrastructure mode; there must be a successful challenge-response session and then a PIN reconciliation between points of connection on the network.

Where Does Microsoft Stand on Wireless Standards?

Clearly favoring both 802.11b for broader home networking support and IrDA for the immediate short-range wireless needs of Windows XP Professional and Home users, Microsoft is favoring point-to-point wireless technologies over broadcast-centric ones that inherently have security risks associated with them. The growing acceptance of both HomeRF and 802.11b in the home networking arena will force Microsoft to support each, yet today the clear winner is 802.11b because it has the capability of overlapping its functionality with that of Microsoft's implementation of TCP/IP.

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