Almost everyone these days uses wireless networks. We have routers in our homes and workplaces, we connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots when we're out and about, so on and so forth. And we are all concerned with the security of our data and do not want someone exploiting us when we're accessing the internet wirelessly. This is where WEP, WPA, WPA2 and WPA3 come into play. But what is WPA, WEP, WPA2 and WPA3, and what do these letters mean for our security?
WEP, WPA, WPA2 & WPA3 - overview
WEP, WPA, WPA2 and WPA3 are four different types of security protocols used to protect wireless networks.
We've prepared a chart for you to help navigate and understand it better.
WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy)
It is the most basic form of protection and, in comparison to the other abbreviations (standards) mentioned, is now considered to be very insecure.
What exactly is WEP? Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) is a security algorithm for IEEE 802.11 wireless networks. WEP, initially developed all the way back in 1994 and released with the original 802.11 standard in 1997, was the first serious security algorithm implemented in Wi-Fi products.
However, as a first outing, it did have a number of flaws and serious weak points that developers and programmers needed to address. They did it with the creation of WPA.
WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access)
Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) is a security standard for Wi-Fi wireless internet connections. It was developed to improve upon the security provided by WEP and became available in 2003. It was only an intermediary measure to have a more secure bridge for a while, ensuring WEP is no longer used, but before WPA2 was launched.
The main difference between WAP and WEP is that WPA uses TKIP or AES cryptography for data encryption while WEP uses RC4 algorithms. The superiority of WPA over its predecessor has a lot to do with the fact that TKIP or AES are both more powerful encryption ciphers than RC4 and alongside WPA key technology offers greater protection against hackers.
WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access version 2)
Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) is one of the latest security protocols for Wi-Fi networks. It was ratified all the way back in 2004, not long after the first WPA, yet it was way more advanced and was used as the primary wireless connection security standard for almost 15 years.
The big change in WPA2 from WPA is that WPA2 uses the stronger AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) cipher instead of TKIP. This makes it much more difficult for an attacker to crack the security of a WPA2 network. In order to bear the Wi-Fi mark, any router or device had to be WPA2-certified.
WPA3 (Wi-Fi Protected Access version 3)
Wi-Fi Protected Access III (WPA3) is the latest and most secure standard for Wi-Fi networks. It was ratified in 2018 and is currently being rolled out by router manufacturers.
Differences between WPA2 and WPA3 is that the latter uses the newer and more secure cryptography. In enterprise mode, the standard enforces a powerful 192-bit cryptographic defense, powered by AES-256 in GCM mode with other additions as well. The minimum encryption standards for WPA3 are enforced only in personal mode where 128-bit AES cryptography is enforced. A huge security change from the previous WPA versions is the fact that this one uses simultaneous symmetric exchange to provide more security and secrecy.
Why is Wi-Fi security important?
You likely won't find too many people who aren't at least moderately concerned about their cybersecurity.
More than three-quarters of all people are concerned with their data privacy. However, Wi-Fi exploitations are still frequent and threaten data leaks and other material or intellectual damages.
The need for better Wi-Fi security is more important now than ever before because we are using Wi-Fi networks for much more than we used to, ten years before, for example. Not only are we connecting our laptops, smartphones, and other devices to public hotspots when we're out and about, but we're also using Wi-Fi connections in our homes to connect our TVs, fridges, smart assistants, thermostats, gaming consoles, so on and so forth. Statistics estimate that an average household has between 12 and 15 devices connected to Wi-Fi almost 24/7. If someone were to break into your Wi-Fi, they could know what kind of devices you use, passwords, usage statistics, etc.
We can see that the increased use of Wi-Fi networks has led to a subsequent increase in the number of cyberattacks that exploit Wi-Fi vulnerabilities. As we become more reliant on Wi-Fi networks, we need to be aware of the dangers and take steps to protect ourselves.
This is an interesting map that shows how efficient network service providers and private users are in protecting their Wi-Fi. See your country to know how secure and confident you should feel when accessing Wi-Fi.
Hackers can use tactics like spoofing to target your network. What is spoofing? Give this piece which we wrote recently a read and you can find out more about protection online (Click here
Tips on improving Wireless internet security
Since pretty much everyone is concerned with internet security, we've decided to also include a small list of things that you can do in order to achieve this. We'll go over these points one by one to see how they help you out and how they prevent threats and exposure.
Update your router's firmware and keep it up to date
This is probably one of the most important things you can do in order to increase your wireless network's security.
Your router's firmware is what allows it to connect to the internet and provide you with the service that you're paying for. However, just like any other software, it needs to be updated from time to time in order to patch up any weaknesses and improve the overall quality of the service. Make sure you update it to prevent exploits. Learn how to update it from HP (Click here
Use a strong password for your Wi-Fi network
Staying up to date with the latest security features is important, but it's not enough. You also need to make sure that your password is strong enough to deter any would-be hackers.
A strong password should be at least 8 characters long and include a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using easily guessed words like "password1", "123abcde", etc. You can use a password generator or a completely random sequence to improve things. Also don't reuse passwords.
Stats show that password reuse is a common issue. And when you combine this with the fact that millions of passwords are leaked and hacked online annually, all of us could review what we have on our end to improve Wi-Fi security.
Change the default SSID of your router
The default SSID is the name of your Wi-Fi network that is set by the router's manufacturer. This name is usually something like "Linksys 1-A" or "D-Link 7B-5G", etc. Changing the default SSID to something else makes it more difficult for hackers to target your network.
The best solution would be to change the network name to "HP OfficeJet Pro 8025" or any other printer name. Who wants to hack printers, right?
Enable router encryption
This is also among the things you can do to increase your wireless network's security. Encryption scrambles the data that is sent over the airwaves so that it can only be decoded by devices that have the correct key.
Turn off WPS
Wireless Protected Setup or WPS is a network security standard that allows users to easily add new devices to a network by pressing a button or entering a PIN. While this is convenient, it also opens up networks to attack. Hackers can use brute force attacks to try and guess the PIN and gain access to the network.
Kraden - total security and privacy along with a secure Wi-Fi
Kraden offers a way to improve your digital security by enabling you to communicate with other people and/or groups in total confidence and privacy. End-to-end encrypted communications can supplement already great security that you have thanks to our guide on how to make a better-protected Wi-Fi.
Protect your data and make your browsing and communication experience much better with Kraden today! Avoid risks associated even with public hotspots that may lack security. Feel 100% confident any time you communicate.
This article went over some important points regarding internet security, more specifically wireless internet security. We talked about WEP, WPA, WPA2 and even WPA3. In addition, we also gave some tips on how to improve your own Wi-Fi network's security. Don't forget to take other areas as seriously as your Wi-Fi security. The messenger app Kraden provides a great way to supplement the already existing security measures that you have in your router and/or network setup.