McAfee has bought start-up Wireless Security for an undisclosed sum.

"We believe there’s a tremendous market opportunity in the Wi-Fi space," said McAfee senior VP Bill Kerrigan, noting that many home wireless LAN users, as well as small to mid-sized businesses, find it hard to configure authentication and encryption security in their WLAN access points. McAfee envisions a managed service that would handle this for them remotely.

Wireless Security offers subscription-based services that let customers connect computers securely to wireless networks at home or in offices through a remotely-managed authentication service.

The Wireless Security technology, which also supports the Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) protocol, WPA-PSK, can work with most network cards. It also supports WLAN routers from Linksys, D-Link and Netgear, and some devices from Buffalo, Belkin, Proxim, ZyTel and 3Com.

McAfee intends to integrate the Wireless Security software into its own security software as well as offer the WLAN security management software as a stand-alone product.

Some analysts expressed scepticism that consumers, even though they may be befuddled about setting up WLAN security at home, would be willing to pay an annual subscription to have it done for them. "The residential user is not going to do this," said Craig Mathias, principal at Farpoint Group.
However, the small-business market might be more receptive to the idea of managed WLAN security, Mathias said. "They value security and this may appeal to them." He said there appeared to be very few managed security services oriented toward WLANs in this way.