Red-M has boosted its wireless networking control systems, so they can fight back against wireless hackers. The company's probe-based wireless security system, Red-Detect, can now disrupt devices trying to infiltrate a wireless network.

"When our intelligent probes identify a bad guy trying to get in, they raise the alarm on the admin's desk," said Red-M's chief executive Karl Feilder. "Without leaving his chair, he can knock that bad guy off the network. The probe can effectively start jamming the signal of the bad guy and monitor him as he tries to evade the counter measures."

Version 3.5 of Red-Detect includes the "countermeasures" module which can disrupt and quarantine rogue devices trying to connect to an office wireless network.

Red-Detect uses an overlay system, in which a separate network of Red-Alert radio "probes" is installed alongside the wireless network that is being protected. The probes scan the air to identify hostile wireless systems when they attempt to reach the wireless network and now, give the administrator tools to fight back from a central console.

The product can also hand over control to Red-Vision, Red-M's enterprise wireless management product, to scale up to larger wireless deployments across large campuses. The system is programmed to respond to attack profiles, and policy breaches, and monitors and audits the performance of normal operations

It costs about £15,000 to put in an entry-level system, and £50,000 for a normal office building, said Feilder. In other words, it more or less doubles the cost of putting in wireless. "You have a choice: spend twice the capex [capital expenditure] or lose the value of your company," he said.

Red-M was spun out, in 1999, from Madge Networks, the one-time king of token ring [the IBM-created networking standard that was slaughtered by Ethernet: if you can't remember it, ask your dad - Ed]. It has concentrated first on Bluetooth, in a manner somewhat reminiscent of Madge's pro-token ring arguments: "In its 100m mode, Bluetooth had a slower communication speed, but it guaranteed delivery of communications," said Feilder. It also gives devices a better battery life, he pointed out.

Despite selling quite a large number of Bluetooth access points - apparently there are 200 public hotspots in the Hong Kong branches of Starbucks, where customers use Bluetooth-enabled PDAs to surf - Red-M saw which way the wireless wind was blowing in 2001 and became a security specialist, selling its hardware-based system for locking up both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

The company competes with Trapeze, Airespace, Vernier and Bluesocket, says Feilder, although it hopes to also sell its products as an overlay on those companies' networks. "We would like to partner with these people," said Feilder. "They need to recognise that all they are doing is securing the known traffic. They should be keen to partner with someone who has a way of finding unwanted traffic."

He shouldn't hold his breath, as enterprise Wi-Fi vendors want to do everything and do not want point-product security offerings around. "Things that are not major functions tend to get pulled into the software control plane of the infrastructure," said Alan Cohen, vice president of marketing at Airespace, who doubts Red-M's claims of disrupting rogue devices. "We can flag and tag rogues like them," said Cohen. "This is a free feature of our system. We don't jam the radio because that would be illegal."