Gyeonggi's Provincial Government Becomes One of the First in South Korea to Benefit from WLAN
Province leads the way after security concerns are dispelled by Cisco technology
By Jason Deign
May 3, 2004
The provincial government of Gyeonggi has become the first public sector body in South Korea to sanction the use of wireless LAN equipment. The move comes after officials were satisfied with the high security standards offered by Cisco Aironet® WLAN technology.
Security concerns have traditionally been paramount to government bodies in the region. Gyeonggi occupies an area of more than 10,000 km2 in the north-western corner of the country, surrounding the capital, Seoul and bordering North Korea.
Until as recently as March 2003, the South Korean Ministry of Information and Communication had forbidden the use of WLANs on the grounds of security.
The government's National Intelligence Service, however, was satisfied with the standards offered by the Cisco WLAN technology that was proposed by the South Korean systems integrator Airquay for use in Gyeonggi.
The Cisco Aironet® Series of wireless LAN products supports a variety of IEEE 802.1X extensible authentication protocol (EAP) authentication types.
These include EAP-Transport Layer Security (EAP-TLS), Protected Extensible Authentication Protocol (PEAP) and the method chosen by Gyeonggi, Cisco LEAP (Cisco Extensible Authentication Protocol formerly named Lightweight Extensible Authentication Protocol).
Cisco LEAP is a mutual authentication algorithm that supports dynamic derivation of session keys.
With Cisco LEAP, mutual authentication relies on a shared secret - the user's logon password - which is known by the client and the network and is used to respond to challenges between the user and the Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service (RADIUS) server.
The advantages of LEAP which was developed by Cisco - over other 802.1X authentication protocols include:
- It imposes minimal requirements on client devices or host systems - a critical issue for handheld devices such as PDAs (personal digital assistants).
- It supports a broad range of operating systems, such as Windows, Mac OS, Windows CE, MS-DOS and Linux an important consideration for the Gyeonggi Provincial Government because its employees use a number of different PC platforms.
- It is simple to roll out and operate.
Combined with a strong password policy and other best-practice measures recommended by Cisco, LEAP is also a highly secure networking protocol.
The Gyeonggi Provincial Government plans to install 20 Cisco Aironet 1200 Series access points in four locations around its main office in the city of Suwon, south of Seoul, with authentication through a CiscoSecure Access Control Server Solution Engine.
The technology was chosen specifically for its security features.
Apart from LEAP support, the hardware configuration of the Aironet 1200 Series allows the wireless antenna to be separated from the access point which meant the latter could be kept in a lockable box for maximum security.
The wireless hotspots which cover the main conference room, eight meeting rooms and a control center in the office will improve productivity and cut costs by allowing employees to log onto the network without having to use up IT department resources and time in supplying cabling.
Long-term, they will also cut costs and reduce the IT department workload created whenever an employee moves to another team, as there will not be any need to re-assign LAN ports.
The Gyeonggi Provincial Government, which employs more than 30,000 civil servants across 25 cities and six counties, has already indicated that it will extend WLAN access if no security problems are detected.
And its WLAN installation is likely to pave the way for similar projects with other South Korean public sector bodies.
The benefits of the technology are widely appreciated across the country's private sector, with low-cost home-grown and Taiwanese WLAN technologies competing openly for market share with standards-based Wi-Fi devices.
And - notwithstanding misgivings over security a number of public sector departments have already experimented unofficially with WLAN, for applications such as video-conferencing.
Youn-Jeong Shi, sales account manager for Cisco in South Korea, says the success of the Gyeonggi Provincial Government initiative has already led to enquiries from other city halls and public sector offices in the country.
"This installation was in a high-profile government center so it was imperative that the technology should satisfy the most stringent requirements of the National Intelligence Service," she says.
"In the event, the NIS put our design through its paces both theoretically and practically - and was very satisfied.
"We hope this project will be important in overturning a long-held misconception in the South Korean public sector, which is that wireless is vulnerable in security terms. With Cisco technology and robust policies in place, it is not.
"What it does offer, however, are tremendous benefits in terms of productivity and cost-reduction. Once the obvious advantages of the technology become clear, we expect other government offices to adopt secure Cisco wireless networking products."
Jason Deign is a freelance journalist located in Barcelona, Spain.
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