Researchers at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in California have come up with software that lets users set up secure communications between the devices in a home Wi-Fi wireless network in less than a minute. A user who wishes to add a device, such as a laptop, to the network need only point it at an infrared port attached to the base station. Over the infrared channel, the devices swap digital addresses and short “fingerprints” of cryptographic keys. Then they switch to a Wi-Fi radio channel where they can use the fingerprints to identify each other and exchange full encryption keys, automating the process of making further communications indecipherable to eavesdroppers. Normally, the process is so tedious that many Wi-Fi users don’t bother, leaving their networks open to hackers and piggybackers. The PARC researchers say they hope to license the software to hardware companies this year.
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