“Darkness falls across the land
The midnight hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize y’all’s neighborhood
And whosoever shall be found
Without the soul for getting down
Must stand and face the hounds of hell
And rot inside a corpse’s shell
The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years
And grizzly ghouls from every tomb
Are closing in to share your doom
And though you fight to stay alive
Your body starts to shiver
For no mere mortal can resist
The evil of the thriller”
When it comes to painting a horrific scene, it is hard to beat the lyrics from Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
But as everyone in IT knows, we come across our own little “Thrillers” almost every day.
Given it is the season for fright, we asked some of the top pundits in wireless networking to convey their most horrific wireless stories. Perhaps none are as bad as the walking dead, but one or two still might raise the hair on your arms.
Have a read (if you dare)…
“My networking horror happened when I was working at Metricom and we had just deployed our new 128kbps unlicensed wireless network in Palo Alto. One day, the marketing director called me and said the network was not working. After grabbing the spectrum analyzer and going on a trip to the field, we found out that we were missing 15dB of link budget. It took us six months to engineer it. The lesson learned was the importance of system engineering.”
“Another networking horror I’ve experienced happened a Airespace about 15 years ago. Our first customer called and threaten to pull everything after his client experienced issues. We found out that the client had asymmetry Tx power. The client’s Tx power was less than the access point so the client could hear AP beacons but the AP couldn’t hear the client. So, the sticky Wi-Fi client has been with us for awhile.”
Bob Friday, CTO – Mist (@WirelessBob)
The Vampire called WEP
“When I sit around the table with other IT professionals, a happy campfire video loop on someone’s phone or tablet, we share the hair raising stories of yesteryear. The year was 1997 in the middle of the dot com bubble and everyone was connecting to the Internet. It was clear then that wireless was the next big thing so a bunch of smart people formed a working group in the IEEE for WiFi. Built-in to the resulting standard was the hair raising Wired Equivalent Privacy, (WEP), which now serves as a cautionary tale for anyone dabbling in security as well as marketing and messaging management.
WEP was insecure from the start and exacerbated by the stories and opinions from the media, analysts, vendors and other commentators feverishly trying to gain attention taking positions like “it’s secure enough”, “it’s not secure at all”, and “it’s intended for only equivalent security and not ‘military grade’ security.” The resulting mess still rears its head today because WEP is still available in AP’s and devices for backwards compatibility. The 802.11 working group should never have implemented WEP in the first place. No one should have said it was secure or even good enough. And WEP should be buried in a 6 foot cement lined tomb so it can never rise again.”
Mike Fratto, Principal Analyst – Current Analylsis (@mfratto)
“There are two effects that are equally horrific: the raw lack of interoperability and uniformity of WLAN features where they are most needed, and the absurd lengths that WLAN vendor marketing departments go to in trying to differentiate their products. Both factors sew confusion and misplaced expectations that manifest in end user disappointment and wireless administrators left holding the bag to explain why reality doesn’t match hype.”
Lee Badman, President – Wirednot (@wirednot)
“My biggest Wi-Fi horror of all time was bidding on a job for a vocational school. When they handed us the plans for the buildings, they circled some outlying classrooms they said that they wanted to make sure had coverage for laptop carts and such. When we asked about the composition of the walls, they told us, “Oh, they’re concrete bunkers. Designed years ago for storage.” We asked them how thick the walls were and they came back with, “Maybe a foot? Maybe more?” We decided to up our costs because of this and ended up not winning the contract. I still wonder how the winner drilled through those walls.”
Tom Hollingsworth, Organizer at Tech Field Day – Networking Nerd (@networkingnerd)
“I tried Wi-Fi calling on a mobile phone at an office lobby, and due to the way it was configured, it prevented SMS text messaging and calling. I did not notice it since I got connected to the WiFi without any issues.”
“The text did not go through and was stuck, which prevented a timely message from going through. I was connected to WiFi for web access but Wi-Fi network for phone was not configured. Only when I turned off Wi-Fi and went on LTE did the message go through.”
Dan Conde, Cloud and network infrastructure analyst – Enterprise Strategy Group, Inc. (@dconde_esg)
“Many years ago, a Massachusetts hospital implemented a solution to have patient monitoring equipment send alerts directly to clinicians. Prior to this, the only way someone knew something was alarming was to hear the audible alarm. The network in place was an old Nortel Wi-Fi network and had been deployed primarily for guest access and had not being upgraded for years and was highly unreliable.
One of the nurses told me she was standing beside a patient when an alarm went off and it took four minutes to get the alarm to stop. In healthcare, a few minutes can mean the difference between saving a patient and having them die, so it’s fair to say the old Wi-Fi network was literally attempting to kill people. It makes me want to go trick or treating not as a ghost or goblin, but as a Nortel AP.”
Zeus Kerravala – ZK Research