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LAN & WAN Reviews

Wireless Network Security - Negatives

We have a few nits to pick with McAfee though. Nit #1 is that the default setup is WEP, which has been repeatedly shown to be relatively easily compromised. Given that our WEP Cracking How To showed that even a 128 bit WEP key can typically be cracked in under an hour, we would like to see MWHNS rotate keys more often that its current twice-a-day frequency and also allow the user to control the frequency of rotation.

Once you have initially set up your WLAN you can change it to the stronger WPA method. However, to do so requires you to first go into the Options tab and then into the "Advanced Settings" screen as shown below to make the switch. Note that the more recent WPA2 is not among the Security Mode options, which is disappointing for a product whose sole purpose is to help secure wireless networks.

MWNS - Changing the Security Mode

Figure 9: Changing the Security Mode
(click image to enlarge)

Nit #2 is that you need to set up the software by running it on each wireless PC that is to be protected. It would also make some sense to be able to run the setup on a PC that is wired directly to the AP, and then propagate the keys accordingly. Under the Options tab (Figure 10), you can see the notation for protecting another PC on your wireless network. But all that does is bring you to a Help screen that guides you through the required steps. As noted with Network Magic, we would rather have the software do the install rather than describe how to do it!

MWNS - Options Tab

Figure 10: Options Tab
(click image to enlarge)

Nit #3 is that MWHNS also installs McAfee's desktop suite, which you may or may not desire. If you are running other McAfee products, all the better, but if not, then this is superfluous.

And finally, Nit #4, which might not have been a nit if we hadn't seen Network Magic first. One of MWHNS' biggest drawbacks is that it doesn't have the network mapping features that are part of Network Magic - and especially Network Magic's ability to show who is currently connected to the network. We wish McAfeee would incorporate both features, even though one could argue the limited utility of the "who's connected" feature. After all, if you're running MWHNS, then only authorized users should be on your wireless LAN! But nothing's perfect and the "who's connected" feature would still be handy for monitoring WLAN usage.

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