Review: Elektron for Mac OS X

Wireless Security Server Protection - Affordably. (February 24th, 2005)

MacNN Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: Corriente Networks

Price: $299

The Good

  • Intuitive installation, price and cross platform functionality

The Bad

  • First out of the gate, it will have other security software firm biting at its heels, poking holes and coming at it from all sides to exploit this niche in the market.

Why Use Elektron?

When WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) is not enough wifi protection, Elektron provides Radius/802.1X authentication services for wireless networks. It is a cross platform (Mac & Windows) software based Radius server and when used in conjunction with WPA (WiFi Protected Access) capable wireless hardware affords users a layer of protection, which up until now has been outside the reach and pocketbook of the small office/home office network.

Why put all your faith in WEP, when it is neither secure nor fail-safe? It can be cracked by those with enough time and patience, not to mention an overrriding interest in your network, regardless if the shared key is 40 or 128 bit. You need something you can trust: You need a WPA Enterprise server.

Elektron makes use of the WPA Enterprise protocol set, comprising of RADIUS, 802.1X, TTLS, PEAP, among others). In order to connect to an Elektron enabled computer the user must be registered on the server, at which point attempts to access will meet with a prompt asking to confirm the digital certificate, once approved the user will send username and password and the Elektron will either accept or deny, depending upon the validity of the information in the database.

How Elektron works

  1. User requests access of network access point, and is notified that WPA authentication is required.
  2. The wireless client initiates a WPA enterprise login, at which time the access point and Elektron server are exchanging information. No connection can be made at this point.
  3. The wireless client and Elektron server establish a secure TLS connection....handshake.
  4. Elektron sends digital certificate to the client and requests approval of its authenticity
  5. With the handshake and certificate authentication in place, the clients sends username and password.
  6. Acceptance of the login information by the Elektron server results in the generation of dynamic keys which will be used to encrypt the session.

Other than the typing of the username and password, the entire process takes place in seconds and is transparent to the user.

Ease of Install

Installation of the server took less than 15 minutes from start to finish. Corriente has made setting it up a breeze with their clearly laid out Settings windows and straightforward documentation. Setting up Elektron can be broken down into four parts: configuring the server, creating the accounts, preparing the Access point to speak to the Elektron Server and lastly configuring the wireless clients whether they be Mac or Windows to connect to the newly created Elektron Secure wireless network.

Cost Breakdown

From a cost perspective, let's take a look at at the competition: (Note that not all competitors can do what Elektron is capable of on multiple platforms, without additional hardware apart from the server.)

 



Corriente Networks Elektron $ 299.00
Cisco ACS $ 5,995.95
Microsoft IAS $ 3,919.00
Odyssey $ 2,500.00
Aegis $ 2,400.00
Lucidlink $ 895.00

Summary

There really is no comparison. For ease of use, price point and overall effectiveness. nothing else comes close. It is no wonder why Corriente won an award at MacWorld SF and that they are presently securing my wireless network at home. Elektron was one of a very small handful of new software programs turning heads at the show.

Edited by Victor Marks, Reviews Editor

by David Blumenstein


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