Ever since their inception in the late 90s, Wi-Fi or wireless networks have not been the most secure networks. Unlike an Ethernet or wired network, Wi-Fi can be accessed remotely, which makes it more vulnerable to breaches.
Of course, wireless networks are not completely defenseless, and several Wi-Fi security protocols have been developed through the years. With every new update and protocol, developers improve security by eliminating previous flaws and introducing improved security measures.
Today, we will discuss the four different types of Wi-Fi security protocols that have been introduced since wireless networks became popular. This information will help you better understand the improvements made to Wi-Fi security protocols and which standard is best suited for modern businesses.
However, if you are searching for secure business wireless networks for your company in Florida, it is always best to consult expert professionals like Communication Solutions Inc. in Jacksonville.
Different Types of Wi-Fi Security Protocols
Anytime you log into your home or business Wi-Fi router or access point (AP), you can look into the security section to learn which Wi-Fi security protocol your router or AP is using. Currently, the WPA2 security protocol is being used for most wireless network devices worldwide.
However, there are other protocols as well. Let’s start with the first-ever Wi-Fi security protocol and then work our way up to the latest.
Wired Equivalent Privacy or WEP was introduced in 1999. It was the first-ever Wi-Fi security protocol standard. It worked by preventing unauthorized access to wireless networks, and many expected it to deliver “equivalent” security or privacy as a wired network.
Initially, WEP was restricted to 64-bit encryption because cryptography was not an open technology. Despite the encryption limit being increased to 128-bit later, WEP had too many security flaws that made it vulnerable.
WEP offered the Rivest Cipher 4 (RC4) stream cipher, however, this did not achieve end-to-end security and was soon discovered to be ineffective. It was easy to crack the keys and gain access to WEP protected networks, which is why WEP was soon dethroned by WPA just four short years later.
Wi-Fi protected access or WPA was introduced in 2003 as an alternative to the vulnerable WEP security protocol. It improved WEP in many ways but most notably brought 256-bit encryption technology, which was a substantial increase to previous 128-bit and 64-bit encryption.
While it offered the same weak RC4 stream cipher, it also added the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) and a 4-way handshake mechanism (PSK) to improve security and authentication.
Two main modes were using different encryption methods in the WPA standard, known as WPA-Personal and WPA-Enterprise. WPA-Personal was targeted for residential wireless networks, whereas WPA-Enterprise was designed for business wireless networks with the deployment of a RADIUS server.
While WPA was more secure than WEP, it still lacked the robust security needed to prevent hackers from gaining access to keys and network devices.
In 2004, WPA2 was introduced as the new Wi-Fi security protocol standard, which built upon the previous WPA standard. WPA2 is the most common Wi-Fi security protocol standard in the world, and it is highly likely you are currently using a WPA2 secured network to access the internet and read this blog.
The most notable improvement in WPA2 was the introduction and implementation of the Advanced Encryption Standard or AES-CCMP encryption algorithm. It offered greater security with stronger encryption and improved the performance of WPA2 network devices.
While this was great for residential wireless network users, business network users were vulnerable. Hackers could still gain access to business wireless networks secured using the WPA2 standard. Hackers could breach other devices on the business wireless network for malicious activity.
In 2018, WPA3 was introduced, and it is the latest and greatest Wi-Fi security protocol that drastically improves the standard. The idea was to simplify Wi-Fi security, improve authentication, and deliver greater data security.
On these fronts, WPA3 delivered substantial improvements over previous generations of wireless network security. It uses AES secure hash algorithm for 128-bit encryption in WPA3-Personal and 192-bit encryption in WPA3-Enterprise, making passwords more difficult to crack for hackers.
It offers increased cryptographic strength and solves many security flaws in the WPA2 standard. Things like dictionary attacks are no longer a concern for businesses using WPA3-Enterprise.
Moreover, WPA3 is also an excellent standard for public wireless networks like the ones at airports, hotels, and coffee shops. This is because it can automatically encrypt connections without the need for any credentials.
This is made possible with the Simultaneous Authentication of Equals (SAE) implemented in WPA3, a far more secure method for initial key exchange than the previous 4-way handshake mechanism (PSK) in WPA and WPA2.
It isn’t hard to see that each new Wi-Fi security protocol standard has improved upon previous generations. Today, WPA3 is far more secure, robust, and faster than any other standard before it. This level of security makes it the best option for businesses looking for a secure and seamless wireless network.
WPA3 is also the best choice for public Wi-Fi networks, where hacking is easier and more prevalent. As this new standard rolls out, businesses can expect to protect and future-proof their wireless networks for the coming years.
However, you must understand that WPA3 is still relatively new, and as with previous generations, we may discover security flaws and vulnerabilities over time. These new flaws will likely be addressed in the next generation of Wi-Fi security protocol standards.
Till then, WPA3 is the obvious best choice.
We highly recommend consulting Communications Solutions in Jacksonville, Florida, for the best solutions in business network security and other telecommunication areas.
If you want to learn more about the different Wi-Fi security protocols or implement a robust business wireless network, Contact Us Today.