Enhancing Wi-Fi Security with WPA and WPA2

Wi-Fi Security Types for Home Networks

Many people are unaware that their home Wi-Fi networks are vulnerable to attacks. These attacks can result in data leaks, like passwords and login information, or even worse, man-in-the-middle attacks.

In the late 1990s, a security protocol called WEP was introduced that helped protect against these attacks. However, it was difficult to configure and used basic encryption. A newer protocol called WPA2 was easier to configure and provides stronger encryption.

WEP

Wired Equivalent Privacy, or WEP, is the oldest wireless security type. It uses a static key to protect data sent over a network, creating a barrier between your wireless devices and hackers who are trying to intercept and steal your information.

The WEP key consists of five ASCII characters (0-9, a-z and A-Z) that are combined with a 24-bit initialization vector. The IV restricts the possible byte values, making it harder for hackers to crack the WEP encryption. The WEP protocol also uses a CRC-32 cyclic redundancy check to ensure the integrity of transmitted data.

However, the WEP system has numerous flaws and vulnerabilities that make it easy for criminals to hack into wireless networks. As computing power increased, it became easier for hackers to find weaknesses in WEP security protocols. This led to the official retirement of WEP in 2004.

Fortunately, there are many alternatives to WEP that you can use on your Wi-Fi network. The most common is WPA, which offers better security than WEP and addresses some of the issues that made WEP vulnerable.

If your wireless network still has a WEP password, we highly recommend that you upgrade to a more advanced security type. Even WEP is better than nothing, but we think that it’s worth the extra effort to switch to one of the more secure options available. For more information on how to switch to a newer security protocol, consult the documentation that came with your router or contact your Internet service provider. There may be a transition period or compatibility issues associated with the switch. If you don’t have the time or budget to make a switch, we suggest using WPA2 on your wireless network to minimize your vulnerability. This is the most widely supported wireless security standard, and it provides a good level of protection. In addition to the enhanced encryption method, WPA2 supports additional features such as WPA-Enterprise, which offers a more robust authentication process for enterprises.

WPA

WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) is a wireless security protocol that replaced WEP in 2003 and provides encryption for home networks. Unlike WEP, which uses a static key to encrypt data packets, WPA uses a dynamic security environment with TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol) that changes the network access key on a regular basis. The result is that it’s difficult to crack the key by analyzing previously transmitted packets.

Aside from the dynamic network access key, WPA offers a 128-bit encryption suite and includes message integrity checks to make it harder for hackers to intercept data packets. However, in 2021, cybersecurity researchers discovered a vulnerability called KRACK that allowed hackers to bypass the dynamic security environment and decrypt data packets.

In response, Wi-Fi Alliance issued a security patch that eliminates the KRACK vulnerability and added new protections such as individualized data encryption and the Simultaneous Authentication of Equals protocol. In addition, the latest version of WPA—WPA3—enhances data encryption with 192-bit keys in Personal mode and 256-bit keys in Enterprise mode.

To determine the security type of your home Wi-Fi connection, check the settings on your router. Each router is different, but most support a menu with options to select the security type. Alternatively, you can check the network settings on your mobile device. For example, macOS devices display the network’s security type in the toolbar when selecting a Wi-Fi connection.

Although most home users connect to WPA2-PSK Wi-Fi networks, it’s still a good idea to upgrade to the latest version of Wi-Fi security, which is WPA3. The latest standard also adds features such as the Secure Management Frame protocol to guard against eavesdropping on Wi-Fi signals and more secure password requirements to prevent lazy, dictionary-based passwords from being cracked. As a bonus, WPA3 supports more modern Internet of Things (IoT) devices and is easier to install on existing hardware than previous generations of wireless security protocols.

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