In a world where hackers can steal a personal WIFI network password through a smart kettle, there’s no doubt we need next level security to keep business data safe. Your WiFi network is important to consider when looking at data security and Phil Tarbox is an expert in the field. He’s the the Regional Director of Xirrus, a WiFi hardware and software service provider that facilitates conferences and businesses. From events for Microsoft and Google filled with 80,000 plus people, to schools and small businesses, Xirrus Wifi devices are used to connect people globally.
Xirrus’ aim is to deliver an incredible experience on a WiFi network. Tarbox says just like you turn on a tap or light and expect it to work, nowadays we expect the same of our WiFi connection. 'The reality is these days the average consumer has 2.8 devices on them at all times and most no longer use ethernet ports, so WiFi isn’t an option, it is a must-have.' And consumers want their WiFi fast and stable.
The company, which was listed as the Wall Street Journal's Next Big Thing two years running, is a known specialist in high-density WiFi - meaning it can handle the big numbers. And without getting overly technical, the software that makes the system work can block or reduce the amount of bandwidth certain applications can use. For example, the system can tell if a user is watching YouTube. Rules can be applied to either block YouTube or only allow the user to watch content at a lower quality level. This means there’s more bandwidth for the others using the network to enjoy. Different rules can also be applied for different devices – meaning the apps you can access from your phone might be given different rules if you’re accessing them from your laptop. The appeal for this kind of functionality at the convention, education and corporate level is clear.
But what about security on these types of networks? Is it safe to join them? We’ve all seen the warnings showing how much data we share when we use a WiFi network. Edward Snowden unveiled mass National Security Agency surveillance data revealing how the United States Government was spying on people world wide. It’s the same with Wikileaks. Every day we find out more and more about our personal security and how our data is being used online.
Tarbox says on open WiFi networks it’s 'easy for security to be impacted and it can end very badly'. Xirrus has a number of measures to keep its users safe. In all of their Wireless Access Points there are firewalls built in with the aim of keeping hackers and malicious activity out. The system administrator can choose how these are set up, monitored and maintained. Late last year the company also introduced EasyPass Personal WiFi, which enables users to create their own networks in any location where there’s Xirrus WiFi hardware in use. This means they cannot be seen by any other users or devices on the network. This is becoming more and more common in spaces like hotels and conferences. Tharbox says his biggest piece of advice is to never connect to a network not running encryption. This means if you’re not prompted for a password there’s a good chance there’s no encryption, which means your data could be compromised.
One of Xirrus’ biggest innovations is enabling users to access their WiFi networks through their personal or professional Microsoft 365 or Google accounts. 'It’s a really simple way to allow trusted people onto your network. You have all of your users managed and they’re authenticated using the same details they would need to access their emails,' Tarbox says. The idea to enable this simple sign on process was an internal idea from the support team. It’s a new concept to the market and one that will be rolled out at upcoming conferences.
WiFi in the future
Connectivity is the future. Tarbox says by 2020 25 billion internet of things devices are expected to be connected to WiFi networks – from light sensors to door locks. He says as society progresses and innovates we will need to be on the internet 100% of the time and we’ll rely more and more on the cloud. But he says ethernet cables won’t disappear. 'You don’t need a line for a phone but you’ll still need ethernet cables to plug into the WiFi Access Point (WAP) for high speeds. WiFi will become a utility that we come to expect in our lives'.
Xirrus at CeBIT
Xirrus has been a sponsor at various CeBIT events. This year they’re hosting a talk about their integration to Microsoft 365 and how to use WiFi to deliver a quality experience to all businesses – no matter their size. They’d love to meet you on the day so don’t forget to say hello!
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