Wi-Fi silicon vendor Broadcom plans to release security software that allows users to set up secure wireless networks more easily. The company has announced that it will work with Linksys and HP, in making in making products less susceptible to hacking. The products will be designed for home WLAN users particularly.

Broadcom's SecureEasySetup software works with the company's Wi-Fi chips to set up secure connections between wireless devices with a push of a button using the WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) security standard, said David Cohen, senior product marketing manager for Broadcom. Linksys is expected to load the software onto its access points starting in the first quarter of this year, and HP will start shipping printers and notebooks with the software around the same time, he said.

Consumers can be easily frustrated by the series of complicated steps needed to set up secure connections around their homes, and often just decide to leave their access points wide open for any user to join their network, said Will Strauss, principal analyst with Forward Concepts.

SecureEasySetup will allow users to press a hard button on their Linksys access points and HP printers to activate WPA security. They will also need to download a client version of the software for their notebooks or personal digital assistants and click on a button to complete the process, Cohen said.

Right now, SecureEasySetup users must have Broadcom's chips in their access points to make the software work, but the software will work with any wireless chipset in a desktop or notebook PC, Cohen said. A previous version of the software allowed users to configure secure home networks by remembering the answers to two questions they provided during the setup process, but that version only worked with access points and client devices that both used Broadcom silicon.

"(Security) really gets to be a problem when you've got printers and things that aren't as smart as what you're linking up to," Strauss said.

WPA security provides a stronger level of protection than WEP (Wired Equivalency Protocol), the first generation of Wi-Fi security that is easy prey for malicious hackers. An even more secure standard called WPA2 or 802.11i was approved in 2004, but Broadcom decided to offer WPA security with the software because a far greater number of devices have been certified for that standard, Cohen said.

A software developer's kit is now available for any companies that wish to build SecureEasySetup into their products, Cohen said.