802.11 Security
Book Review

802.11 Security
Bruce Potter and Bob Fleck

O’Reilly and Associates
ISBN 0-596-00290-4
US$ 34.95 CA$ 54.95


Warning Will Robinson! This small book on 802.11b wireless security (167 pages not including the comprehensive index) is not for the faint of heart. To take full advantage of the copious amount of detail that Potter and Fleck provide, you need a good working knowledge of networking, and familiarity with either the Linux, FreeBSD, or OpenBSD operating systems.

802.11 Security is aimed at people who need to configure and administer secure 802.11b wireless (popularly named Airport or WiFi) networks. 802.11 Security is NOT targeted at the casual home computer user who merely wants to keep others from poaching their wireless connection. Those users are best served by Adam Engst’s and Glenn Fleishman’s Wireless Internet Starter Kit.

However, if you have any interest in comprehensive and detailed knowledge of how 802.11b security works from the network administrator’s viewpoint, 802.11 Security is the book for you. Potter and Fleck have years of experience with Unix security issues, and have several papers on the subject to their credit.

After setting the stage with a good discussion of the many problems with wireless security, the authors outline some of the more common types of attacks on wireless networks. Why? Their point is that understanding the nature of the “Man-in-the-middle” attack (for example) is important for knowing how to prevent it. This point shows that 802.11 Security is more than just a “cookbook” manual. It provides the “why” as well as the “how.”

The bulk of the book covers how to configure FreeBSD, Linux, and OpenBSD clients, gateways, and access points (base stations for us Apple types). Plenty of examples are provided. However, with no CD included to allow copy-and-paste, you’ll need to enter everything manually if you want to follow the examples verbatim. In reality, the lack of a CD is not an issue, as the typical sysadmin is going to be working on their customized installation, and will need to tweak the code examples.

802.11 Security does have ten pages on Mac OSX station configuration, as well as a smaller section on Windows setup. For those adventurous readers, the Mac setup section has plenty of examples on how to configure OSX’s built-in firewall for best wireless security. The relative paucity on client computer setup is one of the few drawbacks for an end-user reader, as the book focuses on administrator issues.

802.11 Security is a good read for the Unix sysadmin who is new to wireless networks, or for the aficionados who want to roll their own home wireless network security. Again, this is not a mass-market book. But if you’re not the average home user, 802.11 Security is a worthwhile book.

MacMice Rating: 4 out of 5

David Weeks

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