Wireless Communication Careers – An Introduction

Wireless communication is becoming essential not only in people’s homes but also in industries. This is because it allows for a versatile IT environment and for a number of solutions that makes it easier for companies of any size to conduct business.

Transmitting data in a cableless way, however, has opened up the IT world to a number of new challenges: to secure communications and make sure no data is intercepted on its way to the lawful recipients. The widespread use of wireless technologies (including the cloud, virtualization and mobile) have obvious privacy implications and have seen an increase in fraud and violations.

The challenges of wireless communication

Data leakage is one of the most feared issues in wireless technology. This is unsurprising, given the several different ways it can happen: from accidental disclosure by users to mishandling by third parties when entrusting data to a cloud provider, even to apps’ in-built security holes. Even phishing techniques seem to be more effective on utilizers of mobile devices, as the line between personal and business is so thin on a mobile device that users are less cautious when opening messages and quicker to click on links. In addition, companies do not often have much control on where users connect from. The difficulty is to mediate between the ease of access to information and the implementation of more secure but often time- and resources-consuming solutions like VPNs.

Despite the challenges, mobile environments and wireless communication options are essential for today’s companies that rely on these technologies to streamline their operations, reduce costs and take advantage of a distributed workforce able to work on the go while increasing customers’ satisfaction. It is paramount, then, to concentrate not only on users’ awareness of the potential risks, but also on training and hiring professionals able to secure the new technologies while not impairing the flexibility that remote connections are actually designed for.

The wireless professionals

Securing wireless systems is a task for information security professionals who can apply the necessary steps to secure a mobile environment for devices that access organizational systems, applications and data without impairing the end user’s experience. These professionals not only have a general knowledge of information systems but also need to demonstrate their ability and skill in networking and communications technology.

Wireless communication security experts need to be able to address communication issues from many different angles: from the creation of policies that help users keep systems secure to working on the safety of the apps that are used in the organization mobile devices (and BYODs especially) and establishing multiple authentication methods. They are also asked to master different ways of identifying threats and block intrusions like those normally used in traditional network environments.

IT wireless professionals need to see the system as a whole (including cabled and wireless devices) and implement unified endpoint management (UEM) systems that can control the securing of all devices, from desktop computers to tablets, from a single console. They also must make use of mobile device management tools, mobile threat defense (MTD) solutions, data loss prevention tools and application program interfaces, as well as technologies like micro-virtualization to hardware-isolate applications.

Candidates for these roles obviously have a wireless communication systems background, with specific education — be it coursework, training or specialization. However, when choosing professionals in the field, employers are not only looking for education but also for a proven track record of performance and continuously updating their skills. They are also interested current credentials such as, for example, Certified Wireless Security Professionals (CWSPs) or Certified Wireless Network Administrators (CWNAs). Professionals who have acquired these certifications have in their hands proof that they can effectively deal with the security flaws involved with Wi-Fi, endpoint vulnerabilities and exploits of a complex nature.

Wireless communications industry: Career dos

Developments in the cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) are helping to fuel the growth of the wireless market, as well as the growth of demand for professionals who can manage these technologies and ensure business continuity despite the frequency of Wi-Fi attacks these days.

Wi-Fi Network Engineers and Wireless Systems Engineers are part of this. Wireless Network Administrators, for example, have the know-how to design, implement, maintain and resolve issues of an organization’s use of wireless technologies and are the go-to experts able to apply network security principles. These IT practitioners have the knowledge and skills necessary to create hardened infrastructures that can withstand most attacks; they must know how to plan, design and manage a secure wireless LAN (WLAN) that will safeguard every computing device that interacts with it. They must also be familiar with the tools and defenses of the trade, including the family of IEEE 802.11 protocols, WPA/WPA2 and wireless intrusion prevention system (WIPS)/wireless intrusion detection system (WIDS) to accurately detect or prevent intrusions, pinpoint the presence of unauthorized access points or classify a threat.

In addition to a solid university background in network computer science or engineering, professionals that would like to enter this demanding field need to be ready to constantly work for licenses and continue education training to keep abreast of the latest technologies.

The right technical skills coupled with foundational understanding of wireless technologies, as well as the ability to solve real-world Wi-Fi use cases and include emerging threats and vulnerabilities in a number of information and communication technology (ICT) segments, give professionals a much better chance in today’s job market. A certification is a great way to prove their abilities to employers and give a measure of their technical proficiency and expertise with wireless LANs.

One of the available programs is the Certified Wireless Network Professional (CWNP) for vendor-neutral enterprise Wi-Fi certification and training. This option offers official certifications designed for professionals from beginners to experts. They include:

  • Certified Wireless Network Expert (CWNE)
  • Certified Wireless Technology Specialist (CWTS)
  • Certified Wireless Security Professional (CWSP)
  • Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA)
  • Certified Wireless Design Professional (CWDP)
  • Certified Wireless Analysis Professional (CWAP)
  • Certified Wireless Network Expert (CWNE)

In particular, the CWSP certification is a professional-level wireless LAN certification for professional engineers. A CWNA is required to sit for the CWSP exam; it is valid for three years and can be renewed either by retaking the CWSP exam or by advancing to the higher-level CWNE (Certified Wireless Network Expert). The certification covers key topics like WLAN Discovery Techniques, Intrusion and Attack Techniques, 802.11 Protocol Analysis and implementation of Wireless Intrusion Prevention Systems (WIPS), as well as management protocols, authentication, encryption and the use of general mobile device management (MDM) practices.

In addition, Cisco Systems and Aruba Networks offer certification options for IT wireless professionals needing expertise in their products. Aruba’s offerings include:

  • Aruba Certified Mobility Professional (ACMP)
  • Aruba Certified Mobility Associate (ACMA)
  • Aruba Certified Mobility Expert (ACMX)
  • Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) wireless
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) wireless
  • Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) wireless

Certification can help professionals understand more about the field they wish to enter by providing a sort of guide on what they should know to excel.

Another good way for an IT professional to gain expertise in wireless communication is to dive into training courses (often available online) offered by accredited and reputable vendors. For example, Infosec’s five-day Wireless Security Training course is an in-depth review of packet and protocol-level Wireless Security. This technical class offers a very hands-on approach with students reviewing a “variety of industry standard access points, 802.1x protocol assessment devices, and WLAN security assessment tools from vendors such as Cisco, AirMagnet, AirTight Networks, AirDefense, AirFortress, Cognio, HighWall, Aruba, Trapeze, Ekahau and many more.” The training can also prepare students to pass the CWSP certification and, as an Accredited Training Center for the CWSP program, Infosec can issue exam vouchers.

Conclusion

Wireless devices are widely adopted and deployed, and this has exposed users to a variety of security issues that increase in number and complexity.

The job outlook for Computer Network Architects and Information Security Analysts with wireless experience is projected to grow at a faster-than-average rate for the next few years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those with practical experience in Wi-Fi, Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMax) and Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) are in particularly high demand. The national employment outlook also appears to be brightening with the hiring of more CCNA professionals. And with the long-lasting “wireless skills gap,” the Wi-Fi industry will be more and more in search of individuals who have qualified talents to plan, design and manage diverse wireless environments.

Certifications not only help land a job but often translate into higher pay. According to Certification Magazine’s latest salary surveys, IT professionals holding a CWNA (Certified Wireless Network Administrator) or CWSP (Certified Wireless Security Professional) certification can earn considerably more than non-certified jobseekers. CWNP have reported salaries up to $87,250 for some Certified Wireless Technology Specialists (CWTS), and up to $262,500 for Certified Wireless Network Experts (CWNE).

In addition, the national employment outlook appears to be brightening, with the hiring of more CWSPs who can make as much as $138,500. Robert Half’s latest salary guide also notes a starting salary for wireless professionals in the six-figure range, so this ought to serve as an incentive to earn certification that will advance a career and represent a positive return on investment.

 

Sources

  1. How to Become a Wireless Network Engineer, Robert Half
  2. Wireless Security Engineer Salaries, Paysa
  3. Demand rises for wireless skills, Network World
  4. Five top certifications to get you involved in wireless networking, Certification Magazine
  5. Best Wireless Networking Certifications, Business News Daily
  6. CWNP Certification Testing, Pearson Education Inc.
  7. Wireless Technology College Degree Program Overviews, Study.com
  8. Wireless training, certification grow steadily in popularity, Network World
  9. Gaps remain in wireless networking education, but need for skills grows, TechTarget