Finding Your Wavelength in Wireless: The Advanced Topics

There are plenty of subspecialties in WLAN, so we're going to be focusing on three primary that help to set the foundation for others.

Security, Analysis and Design

We are going to be exploring each of these, the applications, and how it's relevant to the job descriptions under each. I want to demonstrate not just the importance of having expertise in these fields, but how each are used in day-to-day life.

When you choose a specialty you want to decide whether this is really a passion for you, or if it's about the money. (Just being honest.) If it's about the money, after 5-10 years it probably won't matter as much and you'll be looking to make the switch to something you DO have a passion for.

Today let's just cover a little basic need-to-know information about each. (Please note: if, as you're reading, you find terminology you don't understand I highly suggest you watch Jamie's video HERE).

Security: Aarrr Walk the plank!

What you need to know: There can be security attacks at each of the 7 layers of wireless, and to be prepared against a determined hacker will require a thorough knowledge of each.

I'm going to name just a few of the different kinds of attacks an enterprise WLAN can suffer: War Driving, Rogue Access Points, MAC Spoofing, Evil Twin AP, WEP Key Cracking, 802.11 Frame Injection, 802.11 EAP Replay, PSK Cracking, VPN Login Cracking, Queensland DoS, 802.11 TKIP MIC Exploit…

Have you had enough? These kinds of attacks happen at different levels within a WLAN, but without a thorough knowledge of the basics it's hard to know what to look for and, more importantly, defend.

Security is critical to today's society, and as such, its compensation reflects that. However, if you'd like a low-stress position – this is not one I would recommend. To see a couple of examples of poorly deployed security protections take a look at Target and Home Depot, or the broader picture – Heartbleed.

Analysis: Which star is Polaris and which direction is the wind coming from?

What you need to know: Analysis happens all the time, but requires a specialty with advanced WLAN optimization and/or complex deployments.

WLAN Analysis takes the spotlight when troubleshooting, but actual WLAN analysis occurs every day. This would be checking on your networks health, and/or then tweaking the WLAN for optimization.

Here's a great whitepaper from 2012 by Metageek on basic steps you can take to optimize your network.

Tasks that fall into this: Choosing a Wi-Fi channel, tracking roaming events, testing the performance of the WLAN, avoiding Wi-Fi interference, identifying or finding interfering transmitters, measuring client density, and inspecting 802.11 conversations.

This is really just touching the surface of analysis and optimization, but it's a good step to get you started and see first-hand whether Analysis/Troubleshooting is a field of expertise that resonates with you.

Design: Which path will get us to the East Indies?

What you need to know: A good design will save you a ton of time and money in the long-run.

Ah.. The beauty of design. This has been a hot topic as of late with the need for high density networks. Here's an excerpt from the article, "WLAN Design: Learning from our mistakes"

"As wireless devices proliferated, we found the AP model we had selected became saturated with approximately 20 clients associated with the AP. Our design never accounted for device density, because we never thought users would have four or more devices connected to the network at once."

Here is the link to the full article published this past June:

If you like to plan and analyze, doing due diligence and exploration, then WLAN design and deployment might be the right direction for you. I've heard of professionals going over 5 miles in a single day to do a physical site survey before planning for their deployment (always advisable when if you're able to do it).

What key traits drew you to a particular specialty? Comment below or connect via social!!