WiMax Must be Legit: The IP Attorneys are Circling

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The last few weeks have seen an explosion of interest in WiMax/802.16, so it seems like the timing’s probably right for the technology, not even finalized as a standard, to come under the scrutiny of a company out to set itself up as a tollgate.

Candian Wi-LAN has been the subject of quite a few reports in the last few days as it launches a lawsuit against Cisco aimed at collecting licensing fees and punitive damages for Cisco’s alleged use of the company’s intellectual property in its Linksys and Aironet gear.

The company holds three patents it says are being infringed. From the press release on the company site:

Ciscos Linksys Division and Aironet product line utilize advanced orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) technology and it is Wi-LANs belief that these devices infringe on Wi-LANs Canadian patent number 2,064,975 and Wi-LANs United States patents No. 5,282,222 and 5,555,268. Wi-LAN currently has intellectual property licensing agreements with Philips Semiconductor, Fujitsu Microelectronics of America and Redline Communications.

According to Wi-LAN, the patents are key to implementation of 802.11a and 802.11g.

The suit is meant, according to the same press release, to put the rest of the industry on notice that it’s willing to go up against the biggest gorilla in the cage. Most reports seem to indicate that the rest of the industry won’t lose much by sitting back and waiting to see if Cisco prevails. The patent agreements it cites with other companies might or might not mean anything: License swapping is a common occurence in the tech industry, and anyone who’s been following the unpleasantness between SCO and the entire Linux-using world is aware of how a “license” can sometimes mean something less than a ringing endorsement of a company’s claims.

There’s more, though:

“Wi-LAN has consistently maintained that its patents are necessary for the implementation of the 2nd Generation WiFi Alliance(1) standards, IEEE 802.11a and 802.11g(1), and the WiMAX Forum(1) standards, IEEE 802.16(1) and the ETSI BRAN HiperMAN(1).”

Going after WiMax licenses will position the company as a revenue bottleneck in the coming year: Some very big names are committed to producing 802.16-compliant gear in the next year, and we’ve already noted that companies are moving ahead with WiMax implementations ahead of a formal standard. In fact, as a member of the WiMax forum, Wi-LAN’s had a front row seat to the building momentum, participating in the development of the standard.

Considering the flood of recent WiMax news, we’re sure Wi-LAN’s mightily relieved its patent attorneys rediscovered the company’s IP, before things got too far out of hand.


» 802.11i has been finalized by the IETF, offering an end to the security workaround Wi-Fi Protected Access offered in the two years it took for the new standard to be ratified:

In 2002, citing that the industry couldn’t wait for 11i’s ratification, the industry consortium Wi-Fi Alliance introduced Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA). It is a subset of the abilities of 802.11i, including better encryption with Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP), easier setup using a pre-shared key, and the ability to use RADIUS-based 802.1X authentication of users. WPA comes in two flavors, one that’s easier for home users, and one for enterprises (the later incorporates 802.1X).

Official 802.11i has all the abilities of WPA and adds the requirement to use Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) for encryption of data. AES provides enough security to meet the needs for the Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2 specification, which is required by many government agencies. The downside is that AES support may require new hardware for many existing WLANs, as it needs a dedicated chip to handle the encryption and decryption. The Wi-Fi Alliance will use the nomenclature of “WPA2” when referring to 802.11i.

802.11i will be backwards compatible with WPA products, assuming they have the means to support AES.

» We love a good mystery, so the unfolding story of a shadowy worm that simultaneously booby-traps sites running Microsoft’s IIS and exploits the Internet Explorer users who visit them made for some compelling reading. Initial reports of the “mystery worm” were a little dumbfounded about how, exactly, it was managing to make seemingly innocent Web sites infect IE users with a keylogger, but with most of the day to stew on the problem, security experts have narrowed the issue down to one of it either being a known exploit that’s been patched, or not:

“There is conflicting information on whether a patch is available to protect against the hacker attack. Microsoft’s alert said Web servers running Windows 2000 Server and IIS that have not applied a patch issued in its MS04-011 advisory “are possibly being compromised and being used to attempt to infect users of Internet Explorer with malicious code.”

However, The center said several server administrators reported that they were fully patched.

“We do not know at this point how the affected servers have been compromised,” the center’s alert said. “The SSL-PCT exploit is at the top of our list of suspects. If you find a compromised server, we strongly recommend a complete rebuild. You may be able to get your Web site back into business by changing the footer setting and removing the JavaScript file. But this is likely a very sophisticated attack and you should expect other stealthy backdoors.”

Complete rebuild. Just in time for the weekend.

» IRC users on your network having problems with the firewall? Do you care? If so, here’s a quick rundown of the holes you’ll need to poke in your firewall to let them talk.

» A few weeks back we noted that Microsoft is getting behind Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and combining the host authentication protocol with its own Caller ID for E-Mail. The company formalized the news today, announcing that it has completed the merging of the two protocols into what it calls “Sender ID” and passed the proposal along to the IETF “for consideration as an industrywide standard for e-mail authentication as part of the IETF’s efforts to define effective industry Internet e-mail standards to address the problem of spam.”

SPF/Caller ID for E-Mail will allow SMTP hosts to verify the identity of a sending host via an addition to DNS records prior to accepting a message for delivery. In this manner, Sender ID is expected to put a halt to many of the host-spoofing or phishing scams in use today.

There’s a Q&A from Microsoft on this and other anti-spam matters up on the company Web site.

The Week in Network News

» Monday: Cisco’s Self-Defending Network Takes Shape

Cisco’s vision of a self-defending network took more form today as a bevy of NAC-supporting products were announced and the company moves ahead with third-party outreach. Also: Your enterprise IM choices just narrowed by one as AOL and Yahoo reconsider their IM strategies, and SUPERCOMM kicks off in Chicago.

» Tuesday: XP SP 2 Will Break Your Network. It’s About Time.

XP SP2 is looming, it’s going to disrupt your network, and your users are going to panic: What took Microsoft so long? Also: Motorola hops on the WiMax bandwagon, VoIP is so six months from now, Cisco goes MAN, and major ISPs write your anti-spam checklist for you.

» Wednesday: Flash: Sometimes Common Sense Isn’t Sexy

Leading ISPs have some terrible news for the rest of us: There is no anti-spam death ray. Also: There’s a big bug in the ISC’s DHCP, e-gov security certification considered, your one-stop newsfeed source for CERT advisories, Intel’s revised wireless plans, and another practical reason to use mod_gzip.

» Thursday: Everthing Old is New Again, and More Secure

You might have written FTP off as yesterday’s old, insecure news. Now it’s back and PGP-hardened. Also: The instant messaging wars continue (is your network secure?)

The Week in CrossNodes

» Get More Out of Your Pipe with Apache and mod_gzip

It’s never bad to give your users a faster site. With mod_gzip and Apache, you can compress Web traffic on the fly, reducing file sizes (and download times) up to 80 percent.

» NFS/NIS: Lessen Your Legacy Security Liabilities

You may be an old-school holdout, or you may have inherited a network with NFS/NIS driving some of the file-sharing load. Either way, here’s how you can button down these venerable but potentially dangerous services.

» VoWLAN: The Wireless Voice Future is Here … Almost

VoWLAN might be the chocolate and peanut butter of networking, but the convergence of VoIP and wireless freedom has its share of snags. Here’s what you need to know.

» Squid Puts the Squeeze on Net Wrongdoers (Part 2)

Between online deathmatches, hearts tournaments, and sports bookies, your network might be looking more like a playground than a place to get work done. Here’s how to use Squid to button down the traffic and make sure your more slippery users don’t slide out of its grasp.

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