Use Wi-Fi and 802.1X!

This is not an advise how to secure your wireless network but rather a call to use the correct terminology, although using Wi-Fi with 802.1X in an enterprise is good practice.

The term Wi-Fi, commercially used at least as early as August 1999 was coined by brand-consulting firm Interbrand Corporation. The Wi-Fi Alliance had hired Interbrand to determine a name that was “a little catchier than ‘IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence'”. Phil Belanger, a founding member of the Wi-Fi Alliance who presided over the selection of the name “Wi-Fi”, stated that Interbrand invented Wi-Fi as a play on words with hi-fi, and also created the Wi-Fi logo. The yin-yang Wi-Fi logo indicates the certification of a product for interoperability. He also stated “Wi-Fi doesn’t stand for anything. It is not an acronym. There is no meaning.”



The only reason that you hear anything about “Wireless Fidelity” is that some of the founders at the Wi-Fi Alliance were afraid and they didn’t understand branding or marketing. They could not imagine using the name “Wi-Fi” without having some sort of literal explanation. So there was a compromise and there was a tag line “The Standard for Wireless Fidelity” included along with the name. This was a mistake and only served to confuse people and dilute the brand. Please note that the Wi-Fi Alliance doesn’t invent standards; the IEEE is responsible for the 802.11 standards. For the first year or so( circa 2000) , this would appear in all Wi-Fi Alliance’s communications. Later, when Wi-Fi was becoming more successful and they got some experienced marketing and business people from larger companies on the board, the alliance dropped the tag-line. But unfortunately the damage was already done and there are still tons of references to the tag-line.

The name is often written as WiFi, Wifi or wifi, but these are not approved by the Wi-Fi Alliance. Wi-Fi is the correct spelling.
Having this said people seem to like to spell it without the dash, as evidenced by the Google Trends search volume which currently indicates about 20x more searches without the dash than with the dash:

This jumps to the conclusion that although Wi-Fi is the correct spelling it’s not generally used and we have to accept this. However, for all people professionally involved with wireless networks it is advisable to use Wi-Fi in all (formal) circumstances.
PS How it is pronounced should also be obvious: Wi-Fi should be pronounced as“Why-Fi” but I hear “Wiffy” a lot ; certainly in The Netherlands.

So what’s up with 802.1X? People(manufacturers, colleagues, customers and even networking professionals) spell it wrong a lot of times. Let me first explain something about the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and how the standards are numbered and named. The IEEE is best known for its networking standards: the IEEE 802 project. IEEE projects are subdivided into working groups to develop standards. So we have the 802.11 working group who is responsible for creating the WLAN standard. Within a particular working group, a number of task groups may be formed. For example, the “n” task group (as in 802.11n) deals with HT (High Throughput).

In the IEEE nomenclature, lowercase letters(802.11n and 802.11ac) are reserved for add-on specifications or amendments that revise an existing standard(eventually rolled into a base document). Uppercase letters or no letters are used for standalone base documents or protocol specifications.
The IEEE 802.1 Working Group is chartered to concern itself with and develop standards and recommended practices in the following areas: 802 LAN/MAN architecture, internetworking among 802 LANs, MANs and other wide area networks, 802 Security, 802 overall network management, and protocol layers above the MAC & LLC layers.
The 802.1X standard: For the purpose of providing compatible authentication, authorization, and cryptographic key agreement mechanisms to support secure communication between devices connected by 802 LANs, this standard: a) Specifies a general method for provision of port-based network access control. b) Specifies protocols that establish secure associations for IEEE Std 802.1AE MAC Security c) Facilitates the use of industry standard authentication and authorization protocols.

Don’t write 802.1x it is wrong! And please do not use 802.11x it is non-existent within the IEEE standards and sometimes used as a shorthand for the most common flavors of Wi-Fi: 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n and 802.11ac.
802.1X is the working group that created the 802.1X standard. If you referring to this standard spell it right: with a capital X.


What’s your MAC address?

If for any reason a client can not connect to a wireless network or has any other problem with that wireless network you need more information from the concerning client to investigate and resolve these problems.

For example, you’ll want to know where the client is located and to what SSID they try to connect. To investigate the issue on the access point (AP), wireless controller and/or management software you almost need always the MAC address of that client. The term MAC address and how to find it, is (still) not for each user self-evident. Here is a brief guide:

A media access control (MAC address), also called hardware address or physical address, is a unique identification number assigned to a network interface card (NIC) and is stored in the hardware. If this number is assigned by the manufacturer, the MAC address is sometimes referred to as burned-in address (BIA).

physical address

By default, the MAC address of 48 bits are in a designated human-readable form of six groups of two hexadecimal digits, for example 01: 23: 45: 67: 89: ab or 01-23-45-67-89-ab. These addresses are formed according to the rules of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). According to IEEE 802 standard specific numbering (MAC48) there are 281.474.976.710.656 (248)  possible MAC addresses. Basically, each device must have a unique MAC address and no two may be the same in a network. This is achieved by assigning a different range of addresses to each manufacturer of network equipment. Manufacturers may use each address only once. From the first 24 bits (3 bytes) of a MAC address, the Organizational Unique Identifier (OUI), the manufacturer of the equipment can be derived.

It may be helpful to trace back a MAC address to a manufacturer. This can be done, among others, at:

MAC addresses are used as network address for most IEEE 802 network technologies, such as Ethernet and Wi-Fi. In the OSI model the MAC address is part of the data link layer (more specifically: the Media Access Control protocol sub-layer). It ensures that devices on a network can communicate with each other.

With BYOD, there is now a variety of devices that connect to a Wi-Fi network. In order to find out the MAC address for each device, there are usually a number of ways, a few examples below:

Android Phone or Tablet:
On the Home screen, tap the Menu button and go to Settings.
Tap About Phone or Device.
Tap Status(on some phones Hardware information).
Scroll down to see your Wi-Fi MAC address.

Apple iPhone or iPad:
From the home screen, tap Settings.
Tap General.
Tap About.
Scroll down to see the iPhone’s MAC address, referred to as the Wi-Fi Address in iOS settings.

Apple MacBook:
Go to System Preferences .
Select  Network.
Select  Wi-Fi.
Press  Advanced button.
Select  Hardware tab and you will sse the  MAC address.
Alternatively you can find the information also in the System infromation.

BlackBerry Device Software 4.5 to 5.0:
From the home screen, click Options > Status.
The WLAN MAC field displays the MAC address for the smartphone.

BlackBerry 6 to 7.1:
From the home screen, select Setup > Options > Device > Device and Status Information.
The WLAN MAC field displays the MAC address for the smartphone.

BlackBerry 10 OS:
From the home screen select Settings > Network Connections > Wi-Fi > Advanced.
In the Diagnostic Information drop-down, select  Device Information.
The Physical Address field displays the MAC address for the smartphone.

Open a browser window. In the address bar, type chrome://system, and press Enter.
Look for ifconfig, and then click the Expand… button next to it.
Look for the wlan0 section, the MAC address will be listed as the Ethernet HWaddr.

In a terminal session type ifconfig.
This will show you a list of the network adapters installed.
The MAC address is referred to as the HWaddr.

To find out about your wireless adapter type iwconfig.
Note that the ifconfig command for linux is deemed obsolete and should be replaced by the ip command, the “ip addr” command should be used in this case.

Windows Phone:
From the Windows Phone home screen,  scroll down and tap Settings.
Scroll down and tap About.
In the About screen, tap more info.
You will now see the MAC address of your Windows Phone.

On a Windows notebook there are a numerous ways to get the MAC address of your wireless adapter.

One way to find it is through the Control Panel:
Open the Network and Sharing Center section within Control Panel.
In the “View your active networks” section of the screen, click the link corresponding to the Wi-Fi connection. Alternatively, click the “Change adapter settings” menu link and then right-click the icon corresponding to the Wi-Fi connection.
In either case, a pop-up window appears displaying basic Status for that connection.
Click the “Details…” button. The Physical Address is the MAC address we are looking for.

Another way is to open a command prompt(via the Windows Run menu option) and type:
ipconfig /all
The Physical Address of the Wireless LAN adapter represents the MAC address.

Also available from the command prompt are the netsh wlan commands. You’d be surprised of all the possibilities of this command. At least check out:
– netsh wlan show interfaces
– netsh wlan show all

Now whenever someone asks you “What’s your MAC address?” Hope you can answer. In case you are asking the question: Hope you can direct the client to the right place to give the answer.


Floor plans are important for a Wi-Fi Site Survey

The execution of a site survey without a floor plan or map is not possible and it is therefore important that you have a plan of the coverage area in an electronic format. The quality of the drawing is essential since it will be imported into the site survey software. The integrity of the scale and proportions are critical. If a drawing is stretched vertically but not horizontally, you have no representative drawing anymore. Give these drawings therefore special attention before starting the survey and let them judge by the person who will carry out the survey.

Floor plan

It is important that the floor plans are up-to-date, with a white background, sufficiently detailed and it is also desirable that a scale bar is indicated on the floor plan. You can carry out measurements at location, but why if it is only a mouse click away for an architect?

Scale bar

It is possible that floor plans are not available in electronic format or that they are of poor quality. The responsibility for providing a good drawing is that of the customer and the delivery must take place before the site survey. Hand-drawn sketches are in general not accurate. This seems at first sight a fairly simple requirement to carry out a survey but it looks there must be a fight every time with the customer or client to receive such information. I probably won’t be the first one who got only after much insistence a photocopy of the required plans and once on the site there is a installer, who happens to work there , was in the possession of high-quality CAD drawing. Convince the customer of the importance of a good map.

The maps are also used to document in-scope and out-of-scope areas. Even if these areas are defined in advance, you must convince yourself that these areas can be identified and validated during the walkthrough. It regularly happens that in-scope and out-of-scope areas are modified during the walkthrough. Therefore, make sure that a paper copy of the floor plans are available at the time of the walkthrough to note any changes.

Where in the past one could get away with a copy of evacuation plan or taking a picture of the evacuation plan at the spot, nowadays accurate plans in the final installation of the WLAN becoming increasingly important. They are more and more used for monitoring purposes or for the implementation of a Real Time Location System (RTLS).