Explore Airtel Thanks App    X
  1. Home
  2. »
  3. Broadband
  4. »
  5. What is Wi-Fi protected access (WPA)?
What is WPA

What is Wi-Fi protected access (WPA)?

Wireless networks have made the possibility of a smart world true. These networks allow users to connect various devices to networks without the need for long cable lines. Although the wireless network is effective in data transmission, it comes with its own limitations. Wireless networks are prone to security threats if not protected properly. Most broadband users use a router and Wi-Fi connection to connect multiple devices in their homes. These users should also look into the kind of security their wireless network offers. Therefore, a security standard for all these networks is much needed. WPA or Wi-Fi Protected Access does just that. Our today’s article will talk about the WPA security standard, its different versions, and its functionality in detail.

Buy Airtel Broadband with exciting benefits!

Related read: What is a wireless Wi-Fi router, its types and how does it work?

Let’s start with a little bit of background on wireless security and then move on to WPA.

What is WPA? When was it launched for wireless networks?

The IEEE or The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers designed WEP or Wired Equivalent Privacy technology when wireless networks were introduced. The WEP worked as a secured blanket to protect the network and prevent unauthorized activities like eavesdropping, data breach, etc.

However, the WEP encryption technology came with its own weaknesses and was easily cracked by hackers in just 15 minutes. The much-needed WPA was launched in 2003 to replace WEP. In 2004, WEP was officially dropped and WPA took its place to act as a security blanket for all wireless networks.

Now, let’s understand the meaning.

WPA or Wi-Fi Protected Access is a security standard compulsory for all wireless networks. It helps the networks to be safe by using authentication and proper encryption methods. The WPA standard was designed by Wi-Fi Alliance as an interim standard that could be used in backward hardware too without any significant updates. It was followed by more secure standards like WPA 2 and WPA 3.

It uses passwords to ensure authentication for networks. Moreover, it supports authentication and RADIUS (Remote Authentication dial-in) servers. Microsoft’s NPS or Network Policy Server is sometimes configured by enterprises as a RADIUS proxy to manage enterprise-level authentication, authorization, and accounting requests.

Now that you have understood what WPA is and how it works, let’s understand what other versions of WPA brought to the wireless security world.

What are WPA2 and WPA3?

There have been three versions of WPA since its launch.

  • WPA or WPA 1
  • WPA 2
  • WPA 3

Technology has evolved with every version. We have already discussed the features of WPA 1. The first version of WPA was built on the legacy of WEP. It protects the network and data via encryption. The user has to give authentication for access. Even after this technology is in place, the wireless network with WPA 1 is prone to DoS (Denial of Service) attacks and more.

What is WPA2?

WPA2 is the second version of the WPA security standard. It is better than its predecessor and has fewer vulnerabilities. This particular protocol was launched in 2006 by IEEE. It can be on routers directly to enhance cyber security.  WPA2 uses encryption of CCMP and TKIP mechanisms.

For authentication,

  • Personal WPA uses a pre-shared key called WPA2 pre-shared key or WPA-PSK. This key is shared among all users for authentication.
  • Different systems for enterprise-level networks.

WPA2 is better than the first gen in terms of encryption protocols, its take on penetration troubles, and enhanced authentication encryption.

What is WPA3?

The latest launch of 2018, WPA3 is the 3rd certification standard for network security. It was made mandatory by the Wi-Fi alliance due to its better performance when it comes to safeguarding wireless networks.

WPA3 is better than its predecessors in many ways.

  • Uses 384-bit hashed message for sending keys between devices and routers for authentication
  • Better cryptographic strength
  • Rigorous authentication process and parameters
  • Uses SAE (Simultaneous authentication of equals) for offline attacks
  • Doesn’t use handshake encryption like WPA1 and WPA2 (passwords and normal authentications)
  • Users can’t use the PSK (pre-shared key) to decrypt
  • Every wireless user uses different keys. Therefore, other users can’t decrypt your data.

Summary of WPA in Wi-Fi

Here’s a short summary of the differences between multiple forms of WPA. The below table will help you understand each security certification easily.

Security Standard One-line meaning Working Cyber attacks Should you use it?
WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) The first version of the security standard for wireless networks Uses RC4 (outdated now) stream cipher along with 64- and 128- bit keys. These keys can be easily decrypted. Prone to almost all cyber-attacks due to very weak keys and outdated algorithms. No
WPA A better version of WEP. Compatible with WEP devices Uses RC4 with TKIP but has a longer 256-bit key (harder to decrypt) Easy to eavesdrop on traffic and get credentials, passwords, etc. (data breach) No
WPA2 Upgraded hardware for better encryption Replaced RC4. Uses a combination of TKIP with CCMP and AES algorithms for better security Prone to KRACK or Key Reinstallation attacks and offline dictionary attacks designed to steal data that is being transmitted over wireless networks No
(Yes if WPA3 isn’t available)
WPA3 Answer to KRACK and offline dictionary attacks – new authentication process Replaces handshake authentication with SAE – offers 192-bit encryption (harder to crack) Can get access by using EAP-pwd and is in range of the victim Yes

Also read: What is VPN, its types and how it works