What the world needs now are simpler, more user-friendly security features in consumer Wi-Fi equipment, according to a new Wi-Fi market update from ABI Research.
Despite the frequency with which users report finding many unprotected Wi-Fi networks nearby when they log on, or of finding that other people are piggybacking on their own networks, most Wi-Fi security schemes are so difficult to set up that many users give up and accept their network's public exposure as an unfortunate fact of life.
"Awareness of security issues is becoming widespread among the average consumer," says Sam Lucero, ABI Research senior analyst of wireless connectivity research. "The complexity of existing security mechanisms is frustrating to many, but they regard it as a problem they just can't solve."
There are exceptions, however. According to the study, early in 2004 equipment vendor Buffalo Technology introduced its patented AirStation One-touch Secure Set-up (AOSS). AOSS allows a customer using an AOSS-enabled wireless router simply to push a button on the router, then push a button on the AOSS-enabled client device, and the two devices will connect using the highest level of security common to both devices.
That same year, chip makers Broadcom and Atheros introduced their proprietary solutions, called SecureEasySetup and JumpStart, respectively.
ABI Research expects that one of these technologies, or some variation or combination of them, will move through the Wi-Fi Alliance and become an open standard, probably during 2006.
"Simpler security solutions won't necessarily give their creators a big competitive advantage," Lucero advises. "But once the Wi-Fi Alliance settles on a standard, most if not all vendors will adopt it. For everyone's benefit, the industry as a whole should set aside competitive considerations and move as expeditiously as possible to get a security standard in place."