Inside the Black Hat 2013 Wi-Fi Network

LAS VEGAS: There are a lot of rooms at the Black Hat security conference. Off to the side in an unmarked location is the Wi-Fi control room for what is arguably one of the most hostile network environments anywhere on the planet.

This year the task of delivering Wi-Fi to the thousands of hackers that attend the conference falls to Wi-Fi vendor Xirrus. In previous years, rival Wi-Fi vendor Aruba has delivered the wireless connectivity.

In an exclusive video interview with eSecurity Planet Mike Rydalch, principal technologist at Xirrus details how Wi-Fi is delivered at Black Hat and what challenges the network faces.

Xirrus and Rydalch are not strangers to delivering Wi-Fi to large events. Rydalch built and managed the Wi-Fi network at this year’s Interop networking conference as well. Black Hat is, however, a very different type of environment than Interop. For example, already this week the Xirrus Black Hat Wi-Fi network has seen more rogue traffic than legitimate traffic.

The Black Hat 2013 Wi-Fi network covers several hundred thousand square feet of space at the Caesar’s Palace conference center in Las Vegas. In terms of hardware, Xirrus has deployed 12 of its dual-radio XR-520 wireless arrays, with an additional 24 of its 8-radio XR-4830 arrays.

Rydalch expects the Xirrus network may need to serve as many as 7,000 users. The network setup is similar to other venues, though the traffic coming in has been somewhat more hostile so far – perhaps not surprising, given the nature of the event.

In a 24-hour period during which Black Hat training was occurring, Rydalch said he saw 1,190 rogue devices show up on the network. He saw approximately 1,300 legitimate devices during the same period.

“It’s rather interesting to see an almost equal amount of rogue devices to real ones, and that is very unique,” he said.

Rydalch and his team are actively monitoring the network, and if and when the need arises they are able to take corrective actions.

Find out more by watching video of the Black Hat 2013 Wi-Fi control room:

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eSecurity Planet and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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