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By Danny Briere, Pat Hurley

Part of Wireless Network Hacks and Mods For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Don’t let the techno jargon of wireless networking worry you. Take some to study its language and acronyms and you’re on your way to understanding the components of wireless networking and making the most of your networking experience. This wireless glossary will help you get started:

802.11: The general standard developed by the IEEE for
wireless local area networks. Within the 802.11 standard are
various substandards, including 802.11b (11 Mbps using the 2.4 GHz
spectrum), 802.11a (54 Mbps using the 5 GHz spectrum), and 802.11g
(54 Mbps using the 2.4 GHz spectrum).
802.11e: A forthcoming addition to the 802.11 family of
standards, 802.11e is not a physical layer standard like
802.11b/g/a, but instead describes a series of QoS (Quality of
Service) mechanisms designed to improve the performance of 802.11
networks for delay- or bandwidth-sensitive applications. A standard
called WMM (Wi-Fi Multimedia) includes some, but not all, of the
QoS mechanisms that will be included in 802.11e.
802.11i: The IEEE standard for enhanced security in a
Wi-Fi network, 802.11i includes AES encryption and other
enhancements to Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) and Wi-Fi Protected
Access(WPA). (See Wired Equivalent Privacy and Wi-Fi
Protected Access
.) WPA2 systems are compliant with
802.11i.
802.1X: 802.1X is an IEEE standard for network
authentication. In an 802.1X-secured network, users can access only
the authentication system (a single network port) until they
have been authenticated by the authentication server. (See
also
RADIUS and AAA.)
AAA (Authentication, Authorization, and
Accounting):
An AAA system (like RADIUS servers, but not
limited to that protocol) is used to control access to a network
like a wireless LAN. AAA systems are used for WPA-Enterprise Wi-Fi
networks and are also used to secure access to many hot spot
networks.
access point (AP): A wireless LAN base station that
connects a wired network (like the wired Ethernet connection on a
broadband modem) to the wireless network. The AP contains a radio
transceiver, which transmits and receives radio signals, and many
APs contain a router, which reads the addresses within data packets
and directs them to the appropriate networked computer.
Bluetooth: A standard system for wireless Personal Area
Networks (or PANs). Bluetooth provides speeds of up to 723 Kbps at
short ranges (typically less than 10 meters). PAN technologies such
as Bluetooth are complimentary to LAN technologies (like 802.11)
and are typically used to connect peripheral devices together (like
keyboards to computers, or wireless headsets to mobile
phones).
dBm: The decibel milliwatt, or dBm, is used in radio
communications as a measure of signal strength. It is a logarithmic
measure, with 0 dBm being equivalent to 1 milliwatt of power. An
addition of 3 dBm is roughly equivalent to a doubling in power,
whereas a decrease of 3 dBm is roughly equivalent to a halving of
power. dBm is most commonly used when examining signal strength
relative to the receive sensitivity of a wireless network
device.
Ethernet: A standard data communications protocol for
computers and computer peripheral devices such as printers. The
most common variation of Ethernet found in home networks is the 100
Mbps 100BaseT variant, but dozens of other variations exist with
speeds up to 10,000 Mbps (10GB Ethernet).
IP address: The “phone number” of the
Internet, the IP address is used to identify computers and devices
connected to the Internet and allows traffic to be routed across
the Internet. Most home wireless networks have two types of IP
addresses: a public IP address (used by your modem and
access point or router) that identifies your network to other
computers on the Internet, and a set of private IP addresses
used only within your network. Your access point (or separate
router, if you have one) translates between your public and private
IP addresses to send data to the right computer within your
network.
LAN (local area network): A computer data communications
network used within a limited physical location, like a house.
network adapter (also Network Interface Card, or NIC): A
device that connects to an internal bus in a PC, which provides an
interface between the computer or device and the LAN. For wireless
networks, network adapters typically connect to the PC Card bus, or
the USB bus of the device being networked.
Network Address Translation (NAT): A process performed
within your access point (or separate router, if you use one) to
translate (or create a tie) between your internal network’s
“private” IP addresses and the public IP address assigned
to your network by the ISP. A NAT router is a device which performs
this translation and which lets devices on your network using
non-routable private IP addresses communicate with devices on the
Internet.
RADIUS (Remote Access Dial-in User System):
RADIUS is a protocol for AAA (see also AAA) for controlling
access and use of a network. WPA-Enterprise uses a RADIUS server to
authenticate and authorize users on the network. You can create
your own RADIUS server (with PC software or a special hardware
device), or use a “hosted” RADIUS server on the
Internet.
receive sensitivity: Receive sensitivity is a measure of
the minimum signal strength and quality that a Wi-Fi device (like a
network adapter in a PC) can accept while still maintaining a
specific level of performance. 802.11 systems have multiple receive
sensitivities — with lower signal level requirements equating
to lower speed connections.
Service Set Identifier (SSID): Also referred to as ESSID
(or Extended SSID, when referring to a network with an AP or base
station), network name, and other terms, this is the name that
identifies a specific wireless LAN. In order to connect to a
network, a device must “know” the SSID of the network.
The SSID is usually broadcast by the base station, but this
broadcast may be turned off (as a very weak security
measure).
signal-to-noise ratio (SNR): A measure of the overall
strength of a radio signal (like Wi-Fi) compared to the background
and ambient noise (or radio interference). A higher SNR (measured
in decibels, dB) means a better quality signal, all else being
equal.
Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA): An improvement to WEP, WPA
adds, among other changes, a key (TKIP, or temporal key integrity
protocol) that changes dynamically over time, which eliminates the
greatest shortcoming of WEP. WPA is the minimum level of security
you should choose if at all possible. WPA-Enterprise adds in 802.1X
authentication to make the network even more secure.
Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2): WPA2 (see also
802.11i) adds even further enhancements to WPA, including AES
(Advanced Encryption Standard), which makes the encryption key
almost impervious to current cracker attacks.
Wireless Distribution System (WDS): A system within
802.11 networks that enables APs and other devices to operate as
repeaters and bridges. WDS is designed to extend your wireless
signal from a main base station (AP) to relay base stations (which
extend the signal to other base stations) or to remote base
stations (which rebroadcast the signal to client devices).
wireless Ethernet Bridge: A device that connects to an
Ethernet port on a networked device (like a PC, game console, or
networked audio system) and provides network adapter functionality
for that device.
wireless LAN repeater: A device that extends the range
of a wireless LAN by receiving signals from an access point (and
other devices on a wireless LAN) and retransmitting them. A
wireless LAN repeater is often placed in a separate part of the
house and is used to allow devices that are too far from the access
point to “get onto” the wireless LAN. Repeaters are
usually part of a WDS distribution system.
Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP): The encryption system
used by wireless LANs to provide security on the network. WEP uses
an encryption key (which can be 40 or 108 bits long – these
are often referred to as 64- and 128-bit keys, due to some extra
bits used in the WEP system) to encrypt data flowing across the
network. WEP is considered an insecure protocol because the
encryption key can easily be “broken” using free tools
downloaded from the Internet.