Tactical Advice

Review: Fluke Networks’ AirMagnet Enterprise Protects WLANs

Tool spots rogue access points and other security threats.
Review: Fluke Networks’ AirMagnet Enterprise Protects WLANs

Most managers of enterprise wireless LANs are familiar with intrusion detection and prevention systems, which monitor unauthorized access, rogue access points and similar threats. Fluke Networks' AirMagnet Enterprise 10 encompasses much more, offering a variety of functions to assure the overall integrity and performance of a WLAN.

Advantages

Using a management and security tool that's independent of the WLAN system it's monitoring provides several advantages. First, configuration errors may not be seen by the manufacturer's management console, but are easy to spot with a product like AirMagnet Enterprise.

10,000

The maximum number of sensors per AirMagnet server

Second, a busy WLAN won't be able to devote the attention necessary to provide comprehensive security. For example, APs primarily operate on the radio channels to which they are assigned, and can only scan off-channel at the expense of performing their core mission — moving data. Because threats like rogue APs can occur on any channel, a separate security system makes sense.

It's also desirable to use a product like AirMagnet Enterprise in multivendor environments and across WLAN system upgrades to provide consistency. And, finally, sensitive applications require full-time monitoring of traffic and spectrum. AirMagnet Enterprise's network of sensors performs this task without compromising WLAN operation.

Why It Works for IT

Like most organizations today, IT departments need to boost their productivity. The degree of automation built into AirMagnet Enterprise is quite remarkable; administrators can see key elements of system status and performance with just a glance.

AirMagnet Enterprise sensors look continuously for security threats, traffic congestion, misconfigurations and spectral issues. We tested the new SmartEdge Sensor Series 4, which features dual 3x3 MIMO Wi-Fi radios that can connect over the air — eliminating the need to run Ethernet cabling in difficult-to-wire situations.

The main console screen provides a convenient summary of security alarms; rogue devices; and performance, compliance and device status. The system also lists individual sensors, each of which can be explored and monitored independently for more detailed analysis. Rogue APs and other security threats are easy to spot, and alerts can be set for a variety of conditions.

Many additional features are worth noting. With the Automated Health Check feature, AirMagnet Enterprise acts as a client to isolate connection issues. Another feature, the Dynamic Threat Update, identifies threat signatures in much the same way that antivirus tools do. And AirWISE Community, a comprehensive online help site, enables even the least experienced troubleshooters to be productive with mini-tutorials and solid, situation-specific advice.

Disadvantages

AirMagnet Enterprise delivers a lot of functionality, so it takes some time to explore the capabilities before determining how best to use them. The only real issue is installation — license management is complex and a lot more difficult than it needs to be. Set aside a few hours and don't be shy if you need to call Fluke Networks' technical support.

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About the Author

Craig J. Mathias

Craig J. Mathias is a principal with the wireless and mobile advisory firm Farpoint Group. A well-known technology analyst and consultant, he’s been active in the field for 20 years.

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