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LAN & WAN Reviews

Wireless Home Network Security

Update 12/2006: McAfee Wireless Home Network Security is no longer available:

McAfee's Wireless Home Network Security (MWHNS) covers both a narrower feature set and also delivers less. But we include in this review because it attempts to go in a similar direction to Network Magic: to make networks, albeit wireless-only LANs, more usable to the average citizen.

The sole issue that MWHNS addresses is that setting up encrypted keys is still far beyond what most ordinary folks can handle. While several vendors have stepped into this area in an attempt at making it easier, they have only partially succeeded.

We have already done reviews of two vendor-specific products that secure wireless setups with the push of a button and some software and hardware tricks. Linksys has their Secure EZSetup and Buffalo Technology has AOSS, but neither works completely effortlessly. MWHNS is an attempt to bring easy set up of a secure wireless LAN to a wider range of devices, but it succeeds only partially as well.

MWHNS is based on the WSC Guard product that we reviewed about two years ago and that came along with McAfee's acquisition of Wireless Security Corporation earlier this year. We tried the latest version with one router each from Linksys, Netgear and Belkin. All are on the recommended list of products published by McAfee - a list that includes only about a dozen or so products.

All three worked well. In the case of a router fresh out of the box, the software is smart enough to know the default username and password to set up the router. In the case of an older router that we had already changed this information on, it prompted us for the new authentication credentials and moved along its setup without any issues.

Once the setup completes, you will get a screen similar to Figure 7 below. You'll see three buttons down the left side that show the summary of your connection, a list of wireless APs that are in range, and advanced options.

McAfee Wireless Network Security main window

Figure 7: McAfee Wireless Network Security main window
(click image to enlarge)

The summary screen shows you whether or not you are connected to an AP that is protected by the software, and other data about your signal strength. Also listed here is how often you have changed your encryption keys on the network. The nice thing about the McAfee software is that it will also periodically change the keys used to encrypt traffic on your network.

Once you get everything working, you pretty much leave the software alone to do its job. If you are interested, you can see that your network is protected with the following status screen (Figure 8).

MWNS - Available Wireless Networks

Figure 8: Available Wireless Networks
(click image to enlarge)

Note that the Linksys router has a different antenna icon next to it, indicating that it is one of the flavors of Access points supported by MWHNS.

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