AirTight Networks SpectraGuard Sentry

Unsecured wireless networks can pose a serious risk to small to medium businesses. Irrespective of how well locked down the wired network may be, all a user has to do is install a rogue access point at their desk to expose the corporate network.

The SpectraGuard Sentry is a basic wireless firewall pitched at small businesses, designed to protect an entire wireless network. It sniffs out any unauthorised access points and automatically protects the network from outside attacks. It will also hunt down any open wireless networks, and those secured by WEP instead of the much more robust WPA security systems.

The device itself is small, measuring 21 x 13 x 3cm (including antennae). It includes two antennae and features support for 802.11a/b/g networks straight out of the box. The silver unit is wall mountable, and accepts a power over Ethernet (PoE) connection to its single LAN port, so you can place it in a hard to reach spot, away from prying eyes. A single serial console connection accompanies a Kensington lock to round out the feature set.

Installation is straightforward: simply connect the device to a PC with the supplied crossover cable, and point a browser towards the inbuilt configuration menu. All the settings are provided in an HTML-based "Dashboard", and it takes just a few minutes to set up the device. DHCP is fully supported; however, the machine doesn't include a server itself.

The user interface is easy to use, and it's extremely straightforward to take down any unauthorised access points, clients or ad hoc connections found on the network. We tested this numerous times during the review process with a range of consumer-oriented Linksys, Belkin and NETGEAR wireless devices, and the Sentry accurately detected each within seconds.

The intrusion detection systems are top-notch, and the Sentry uses continuous events monitoring to keep abreast of threats. It also includes protection against access point MAC address spoofing (so users on your wireless network can't be tricked into connecting to an access point masquerading as another), and denial of service (DoS) attacks.

All told, AirTight's SpectraGuard Sentry does a great job of simplifying small business wireless security. Given the low price of desktop access points these days, the cost is a small price to pay to secure the data on your network. You'll need another device to secure your wired network, however, as the Sentry is focused on Wi-Fi only.

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Matthew Overington

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