Wireless Security Protocols Explained

Wi-Fi signals are all around us. As most of us use the internet via a Wi-Fi connection, it must have proper security. Otherwise, our data are just transmitting without any security. It is important to know what kind of security measurements there are to protect us from potential hacking or data loss. Security measurements have been updated every few years. In this article, we are going to discuss them broadly. Wi-Fi signals are transmitted via electromagnetic waves. Browsing through the router wireless security page, all the security settings can be tweaked and controlled. All the security protocols are explained properly.

WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy)

WEP was the first full-on security measurement for wireless networks introduced in 1999. At the time it was equivalent to formal wired security. It was functional for the time being with a set of keys as passwords with the IEEE 802.11 security algorithm. A simple protocol that used 10 or 26 digits as a security measurement. There was a massive flaw in this system as it was very easy to crack. Security relies on randomness which lacks in WEP. 64-bit encryption soon became outdated and there was no use for it. The evolution of new tools and technology made WEP so backdated and weak that routers got firmware updates just to remove this protocol.

WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access)

WPA was introduced in 2003 as 80.11i as the updated standard from WEP. It is the first of the WPA Wi-Fi alliance series that is more robust than WEP. WPA came out to public use for protecting wireless internet security later. WPA uses a wireless encryption method to utilize a 256-bit system. WPA has two versions, one is WPA-Enterprise, and the other is WPA-personal. General consumers use the WPA-personal in-home wireless network system. It is a massive improvement from WEP. WPA uses TKIP (Temporal Kye Integrity Protocol) for security measures. Though it is the updated version, it had major security flaws.

WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2)

WPA2 is the direct update of WPA as the name suggests. A year later of the original WPA release, WPA2 was introduced with a big firmware upgrade for users. As WPA was using WEP alongside to support users with old hardware, there is a massive flaw in the system. People can get into the system using this venerability. AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) was introduced with it. Just like all encryptions, WPA2 is doing a tremendous job by replacing WEP from the system. WPA2 can utilize both TKIP and AES. WPA2 is also known as WPA-PSK (Pre-Shared Key). This key is shared with users by the administrator. A plain key can be used as a password to access the SSID. Routers that are currently using WPA2 have WEP disabled by default.

WPA3 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 3)

WPA3 is the latest version of WPA. It has the highest standard of encrypted security for wireless devices to date. It was introduced back in June 2018 by the Wi-Fi Alliance as WPA3-Personal. We do not see too much of WPA3 today because the standards are still too high and not all devices support it. For this reason, its usability is still lower than expected. But once established WPA3 will simplify Wi-Fi security. For this protocol to work, no manual encryption is needed. As for dictionary attacks, each key is authenticated after input. So, there is no room for brute force. Thus, it takes forever to successfully guess a simple password. The latest devices nowadays come with WPA3 built-in as default and satisfy users only with WPA3 enabled devices.

WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup)

In general, WPS is used as a push-button for connecting to SSID. The button is hidden at the back of the router. This button holds a simple security measure. Home devices such as printers, smart-TV, or even smartphones can use WPS for gaining quick access to the SSID. Pushing the button right after configuring the smart device to use the push key enables it to connect. Devices search for router access in the process. A simple passcode can also be shared after pushing the button. It is enabled only for a few seconds and can be processed as manual connections. WPS can come in handy in case of a forgotten password or a quick connection without sharing the password.

Access Control

Access Control is an honorable mention in this list. It gives a flexible security option. The network admin can host, set a group of rules, or mention dedicated IP’s and schedule for devices to utilize the channel. Rules can be set up using status, direction, and protocols with a name that can be easily identified later.

Which Wireless Security Protocol Works Best for You?

Like the ever-changing upgrade to the newest technology, security in wireless protocols got their share of updates too. From the above descriptions and details, it is clear to choose what kind of security measures a hotspot need. The recommendation is to use at least WPA2 if possible and WPA3 if available. Random encryption helps against malicious tools and other people. Current generation and widely used WPA protocols are not only secure but they provide sustainable performance at the same time.