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AirMagnet and Cisco Systems Deliver Secure 802.11n Wireless Network for 2008 Presidential Debate

November 2008 by Marc Jacob

AirMagnet Inc. is proud to announce that its award-winning software tools were used by Cisco Systems, Inc. (CSCO) to optimize and secure the wireless network for the 2008 U.S. Presidential Debate, held at the University of Mississippi.

AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer and AirMagnet Survey PRO were used by the team at Cisco to tune the performance and reliability of an 802.11n wireless network that was designed to serve 3,000 people, with 43 access points (APs) covering more than 25,000 square feet. When the network went live, AirMagnet was also used to defend against wireless intruders and a variety of other threats.

“Anytime you deal with the U.S. Government, there are extremely high standards around security and reliability. This event was no exception. It was vital that the network serve as the communication and application backbone for all involved, including the large media contingent,” said Dave Hunt, TITLE at Cisco Systems, Inc. “Once we set up the basic 11n network, AirMagnet tools allowed us to quickly fine-tune the deployment and configure the APs for performance. When the debate began, AirMagnet helped us defend the network, and troubleshooted performance and reliability issues immediately.”

With the majority of the wireless network residing in an open tent designed to host the media, performance issues were a key concern for organizers. The number of camera feeds, spectrum traffic, unauthorized third-party devices and equipment were staggering. All of these elements can impact the performance of a network. Fortunately, AirMagnet provided Cisco with the tools needed to perform continual WiFi interference analysis, packet and frame analysis, and live interactive network tests.

“There were a ton of performance and access issues that AirMagnet helped us address in real-time during the debates. For example, a lot of the foreign press – despite strict guidelines against – still attempted to use their own equipment with the network without authorization. This obviously caused major interference issues as random devices and antennas began broadcasting around us. Once these devices started to impact the network, AirMagnet immediately identified them and allowed us to appropriately resolve the issue,” continued Hunt.

As one might expect, an event of this magnitude always presents a great opportunity for wireless attacks and hackers. During the debate, there was an attempted wireless attack. AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer immediately alerted the Cisco team and they escalated the issue to the United States Secret Service. The problem was quickly and appropriately resolved. AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer is designed to automatically detect dozens of wireless intrusions and hacking strategies, including Rogue devices, Denial-of-Service attacks, Dictionary Attacks, Faked APs, RF Jamming, "Stumbler" tools, and many more. It also allows an administrator to set detailed security policies for all devices on the network.

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