The Reason Wi-Fi Support Was Removed from ActiveSync

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Easily the most controversial change made when Microsoft released ActiveSync 4.0 was the removal of support for synchronizing over Wi-Fi. Many people don’t understand why a feature that had been available for years was abruptly removed.

In a recent post on the Windows Mobile Team Blog, Mike Calligaro explains why this change was made. It essentially comes down to the fact that there’s no encryption in the standard form of ActiveSync, so it’s possible for a hacker to intercept the information if it’s being wirelessly exchanged.

In addition, ActiveSync doesn’t work very hard to be sure the device attempting to synchronize is actually the correct device and not an unauthorized one masquerading as the real one.

For these reasons Microsoft decided that doing ActiveSync over a Wi-Fi connection was too insecure and removed the feature.

ActiveSync vs. Exchange ActiveSync

Adding some confusion to this issue is the fact that it’s still possible to synchronize a Windows Mobile device with a Microsoft Exchange server over Wi-Fi.

As Calligaro explains, despite their similar names and similar functions, ActiveSync and Exchange ActiveSync are two different applications, and the Exchange version was designed from the beginning with encryption built into it.

Maybe Someday

It has not escaped Microsoft’s attention that there are many Windows Mobile users who want Wi-Fi support added back to the standard version of ActiveSync.

"I can tell you definitively that the team responsible wants to re-enable desktop ActiveSync over Wi-Fi," is Calligaro’s response. "But I have to also tell you that they have a lot of other things they need to do first.  I can’t tell you when you’ll get your Wi-Fi back." 

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