How to Get Your iPad Securely on a Corporate Wireless Network

I think it goes without saying, but smart phones and tablet PCs are absolutely revolutionizing the wireless & mobile industry. For example, most of these devices don't even *have* wired Ethernet ports.

However, that leads to several technical challenges, especially with regard to getting the devices securely onto the corporate wireless network. In almost every business meeting I have had in the last 3-6 months, someone asks me how to accomplish this.

I spoke with Cloudpath's Lynn Haney about the two main ways to accomplish this.

First, mobile devices can join the network through PSKs (pre-shared keys). I see two main issues with this. The first one is that it isn't scalable. How are you going to distribute the key to thousands of different users? Are you going to expect them to set up their own network profiles on each of their devices and properly enter the key? Which leads to the second issue I see, which is the fact that PSKs aren't very secure. If thousands of people know the secret, then it's not really a secret anymore, is it?

The second option is leveraging 802.1X for smart phones and tablets to securly join the corporate wireless network. In 802.1X, one or more digital certificates secure the wireless connection. Traditionally, this has been a cumbersome process, even with more advanced devices such as laptops or desktops. It is even more problematic with most smart phones and tablet PCs because they are not as sophisticated.

I believe the current lack of automated migration will have to change as adoption of mobile phones and tablet PCs continue to rise along with the popularity of corporate BYOD (bring your own device) plans.

Douglas J. Haider is a Consulting Systems Engineer with Cisco. He hosts a personal blog at WiFiJedi.com, and micro-blogs on Twitter @wifijedi

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