Watch out for the "Evil Twin" - Coming to a Hot Spot Near You
Imagine this scenario. You have a couple of hours to kill, so you log onto the free wireless access at an Internet cafe and check your personal email, maybe even make sure your latest check won't bounce by logging on to your banking site. (Whoops, that's just me).
What if a fraudster had set up that free WiFi you just logged into? How much of your personal information was just compromised? Well, this nightmare scenario is coming true. It's so widespread that it has even earned its own nickname: The "Evil Twin." Fraudsters can easily set up a fake hub and even name it to look legitimate, by using the name of a nearby store or cafe. Some people have noticed this in airports.
But don't lose hope: the "good guys" at the WiMAX Forum have defined a security model using two-way mutual authentication and they are creating standards that will protect us from this kind of scam. WiMAX is one of the standards for mobile broadband. It's not fully adopted anywhere yet, because only some providers have adopted it as a standard. But some of the big chip makers will be baking it into devices in the coming years so it will become more widespread.
Today we are announcing that the WiMAX Forum has chosen VeriSign as the Certificate Authority to secure the certificates that will go on WiMAX-enabled servers and devices.
Our PKI Product Manager, Charul Sadwelkar took a few moments to answer some of my questions about VeriSign's role in the WiMAX ecosystem. Charul used to work in the mobile industry so he knows all the jargon and he explained all the competing standards.
Question: "Are there any competing standards to WiMAX today?"
Answer: "There are competitive technologies that are in various stages of evolution. The one most commonly cited is the "Long Term Evolution" (LTE) roadmap, which is the path taken by the GSM and the GPRS service providers. But we believe that they are a little bit behind WiMAX which is spearheading the high-speed mobile Internet access revolution."
Question: "As part of VeriSign's PKI service for WiMAX, are we using any proprietary technologies?"
Answer: "VeriSign takes pride in the fact that we are a standards-based PKI provider. For the WiMAX ecosystem, we are not doing anything proprietary, these are very standard certificates with profiles as specified by the forum."
Question: "When will WiMAX be widespread?"
Answer: "It is in pilot roll-out in a couple cities in the US and in some Asian countries where the landline infrastructure is not particularly strong. We expect that WiMAX will be available in a widespread in a year or two from now."
White Paper: Helping to Secure the WiMAX World: VeriSign WiMAX PKI
Data Sheets: VeriSign WiMAX Public Key Infrastructure Service for Device
Manufacturers, and VeriSign WiMAX Public Key Infrastructure Service for Service