Manhattan's Bryant Park gets a new form of Wi-Fi security: Bryant is part of the success story of New York's late 20th century renaissance. Next to the main branch of the New York Public Library--the one with the archetypal lions--the park was transformed from 1988 to 1992 (through efforts by the Koch and Dinkins' administrations) from an overgrown and unmaintained drug dealers' haven into an area that attracts thousands of people a day for lunch or contemplation. It's been used during Fashion Week for events, too. (See the park's Web site.)
Bryant has also attracted Wi-Fi and reporting on Wi-Fi because of its highly visible location in mid-town and next to the library. The park first received an Internet signal via nycwireless, the local and still thriving community wireless group. A few years ago, Public Internet Project (PIP) took over operation with Google subsidizing the connection.
Now, in an announcement yesterday, Wibiki will overlay its new flavor of secured Wi-Fi on the Bryant Park offering. In an interview with Marcos Lara today, founder of PIP and an employee of Wibiki, he said that open and unrestricted access would still be available, but that Bryant Park's administrators had agreed to allow Wibiki to build a parallel network over which their encryption software would work.
Wibiki's software works on a few popular routers. One software package primes the pump and is run on a computer connected to the router. The router is reconfigured to Wibiki's security setup; this requires no firmware change. After a router is set to Wibiki's configuration options, a Wibiki client (Windows and Mac OS X) can automatically connect enabling appropriate encryption settings on the client computer. It avoids 802.1X, which can be overkill and requires more coordination, while still providing a good level of minimum security.