Which Wi-Fi Security Should You Use: WPA or WPA2?

Haseeb Awan
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October 6, 2022
Modified On
April 5, 2023

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Modified On
April 5, 2023

Wireless networks are increasingly common. Whether you're at a local coffee shop, school, or home, numerous wireless connections may be accessible to you. But which are trustworthy? Examining the network security settings may assist you in making this decision. We explore the history of security protocols and compare WPA vs WPA2 to help you evaluate your choices.

Router Security Settings

When you set up a Wi-Fi network, you have a few router security choices. Someone may use your router to do illegal things on your behalf, track your internet activities, or even install malware if it is not secured. 

When it comes to wireless network security, there are a few options. WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy), WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access), WPA2 Personal and Business, WPA2 Enterprise and Professional, and potentially WPA3 will be accessible. Depending on the type of online activity you engage in, you may need more or less security.

As more and more devices connect to the internet, it's essential to have a sound Wi-Fi security system in place. Keep reading about WEP, WPA, and WPA2 - the three most common wireless security protocols - and which is best. And remember: no matter which protocol you choose, install antivirus software too.

Wi-Fi Security Protocol Types

WEP, WPA, and WPA2 are the most popular protocols used by the majority these days. Each protocol has its way of securing the network through different encryption techniques. 

WEP

Wired Equivalent Privacy, or WEP, was once the standard security protocol in the market. Unfortunately, it is no longer secure because current computers are much more potent than they were in the past. Hackers can now easily crack WEP encryptions since they use static keys.

WEP, created in 1997, secures a network using a single key. The whole network gets jeopardized if one user is hacked. WEP's 64- or 128-bit string was hard to break, creating an impenetrable barrier between users and hackers wanting to eavesdrop on wireless transmissions.

The WEP was decommissioned in 2004, so any systems that still utilize it must be updated. A consumer-grade computer can now perform the calculations required for the decryption of a WEP key.

Pros

Because most devices support WEP, it was pretty simple to use. Its aim was the same level of security as a direct connection. The encryption method was sophisticated enough when it was initially introduced to keep novices out. WEP enabled users to protect themselves against man-in-the-middle attacks.

Cons

To take advantage of the security improvements introduced by newer protocols, it was necessary to manually and independently update the encryption key on each system. Part of the key was sent in plaintext, so anyone could read it. As time progresses, more and more security flaws have been exposed.

WPA

WEP's primary limitation was its lack of security. To cater to many of the problems discovered with WEP, WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) was created. TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol), which became the standard in 2003, dynamically encrypts the network access key regularly by changing it frequently. Hacking groups will no longer be able to collect transmitted data over a lengthy period to crack the key.

TKIP is cheap and efficient in its delivered dynamic security level; however, this was not enough. Security experts quickly discovered that even small amounts of data could be used to crack the TKIP system.

To solve this problem, cryptographers worldwide created a new cipher (or encryption algorithm) to replace WEP and WPA's RC4 cypher. The AES cypher from Belgium proved to be the most secure during testing, so it was adopted as WPA2's successor.

Pros

TKIP (dynamic key encryption) replaced the WEP standard, which regularly changes the network access key. When a new key is generated, it is recognized by all network devices. The level of security keys and their verification has been boosted.

Cons

TKIP is now vulnerable to hacking because processing power has become more sophisticated. Data was always vulnerable unless users and network administrators created strong passwords from the start.

WPA2

WPA2 has been the de facto standard for network security for nearly a decade, thanks to its superior performance compared to its predecessor (WPA). It uses the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) cypher, which even the most advanced computer in the world would take billions of years to crack.

However, there are several security holes in WPA2. The "handshake" occurs when a network verifies a device connection and is therefore vulnerable to a KRACK attack because sensitive information, such as passwords, is transmitted during this time. It's challenging for even the most skilled hackers to pull off such an attack because the attacker needs physical access to the network.

The WPA2 encryption method has outlived all previous security standards due to the significant differences between WPA and WPA2.

Pros

AES encryption--a powerful cypher-- is typically used, providing the same benefits as WPA. Furthermore, requiring longer passwords increases security.

Cons

More computing capacity is required (now minimal with current technology). MITM attacks are possible as well.

What Are Wi-Fi Encryption Tools?

Encryption technologies, such as WPA2 and other Wi-Fi security standards, help safeguard your data while using Wi-Fi networks. Unsecured wireless networks are vulnerable to cybersecurity problems that hackers and other cybercriminals can exploit to conduct data breaches or malware attacks. Wireless network protection using WPA2 and other Wi-Fi security standards has become the industry standard.

Online security is a continuous effort that requires multiple tools. These can include anything from VPNs to proxies to Tor, and they each play an essential role in safeguarding your data. Even your most trusted devices, iPhones, need additional privacy apps for complete protection. Not all tools can encrypt your data, though, which is why it's so important to use a variety of them.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) encrypts and protects your Wi-Fi network. Your web traffic is generally routed via your Internet Service Provider (ISP). However, your data is encrypted and routed through a VPN server instead of going through your ISP.

Your data and communications may appear to be coming from the VPN server rather than your router, which is advantageous. In other words, not only is your data encrypted, but all of your conversations appear to originate from the VPN server, further enhancing your privacy.

You may question why you need a Virtual Private Network if you use Wi-Fi security measures. VPNs improve the safety provided by standard Wi-Fi security protocols. By routing your web traffic through a VPN server, third parties such as your ISP or government cannot access your online activity. Additionally, using a VPN allows you to safely browse on public Wi-Fi and bypass geo-restrictions to enjoy your favourite content from anywhere in the world.

You can combine VPNs and Wi-Fi security measures to keep you safe on the internet. WPA2 Wi-Fi security protocols protect your local network from attacks and breaches, while virtual private networks (VPNs) encrypt all your online communications.

What Is the Importance of Different Wi-Fi Security Protocols?

It's critical to have a better understanding of your Wi-Fi security protocols. Previous protocols are more prone to being hacked than newer ones and are far more likely to be breached. Two reasons account for this:

Because the older protocols were developed without knowledge of how hackers targeted routers, they are now outdated and vulnerable to attack. More recent protocols have since been created with these exploits in mind and patched against them, but old versions remain unsecured.

Because WEP has been around for a while, hackers have had time to discover its flaws and exploit them. For this reason, WEP is no longer a secure protocol.

What Is My Wi-Fi Security Protocol?

Now that you understand why type verification is crucial and which protocol to use let's explore how you can confirm you're making the most secure connection.

  • How to Determine the Wi-Fi Security Type of Your Windows 10

Under "Network and Connection Center," type "Network and Sharing Center" into the search box, then select it. The information under "Security type" should be inspected in the window that opens. WEP, WPA, and WPA2 are some of the security types you could see.

  • How to Determine the Wi-Fi Security Type of Your Mac

It's easy to check the Wi-Fi security type on macOS. Click the Wi-Fi icon in the toolbar while pressing down the Option key. All the information about your network will appear, including your security protocol.

  • How to Determine the Security protocol of Your Android Wi-Fi

On an Android phone, you can open the Settings > Wi-Fi and check. Check your router's information to ensure you're connected to it. It will tell you about the security protocol of your connection. Please remember that the method for reaching this screen may vary depending on your device.

  • How to Determine the Wi-Fi Security protocol of Your iPhone

Although there is no way to ascertain the security protocol of your Wi-Fi connection from an iPhone, you can check its security by using a laptop or desktop computer or logging into the router with another device.

Why is Wi-Fi Security Important?

As more and more devices connect to the internet via Wi-Fi, it's becoming increasingly important to ensure your network is secure. Here are four reasons why Wi-Fi security is so important:

Protect Your Personal Information

When you connect to a Wi-Fi network, your internet traffic is transmitted. That means that anyone within range of your Wi-Fi network can potentially intercept your data.

Not using a secure connection could include sensitive information like your passwords, banking details, and credit card numbers. Using a secure connection can protect your personal information from being intercepted by hackers.

Prevent Malware Infections

If you're not using a secure connection, you're also at risk of getting malware infections. Hackers can use unsecured Wi-Fi networks to spread malware to unsuspecting victims.

Once your device is infected with malware, hackers can gain access to your personal information or use your device to launch attacks on other devices on the network.

Protect Your Privacy

Your device's MAC address is broadcasted when you connect to a Wi-Fi network. This unique identifier can be used to track your online activity.

If you're not using a secure connection, anyone within range of your Wi-Fi network can potentially see which websites you're visiting, what you're downloading, and more. Using a secure connection can protect your privacy and keep your online activity private.

Save Money On Data Usage

If you're not using a secure connection, your device will automatically connect to any available Wi-Fi network. This includes public networks that may have data limits or charges.

By using a secure connection, you can ensure that your device only connects to networks that you trust. This can save you money on data usage and help prevent exceeding data limits.

WPA Vs WPA2: Who's The Winner?

WPA2 is the most secure form of WPA. For protecting your wireless (Wi-Fi) network, WPA2 will be the best option.

WPA2 has one downside: it requires more processing power, which means that some older hardware might not be able to use it.

Based on these factors, let us see when a WPA network is better than a WPA2 network.

When To Use WPA?

WPA's encryption mechanism is less secure, and there is no enterprise solution to support commercial use. If you have older hardware, WPA may be the better choice since it requires less processing power and may be the better option if you are willing to make security concessions.

When To Use WPA2?

WPA2 is a Wi-Fi encryption protocol appropriate for personal and business use. It includes advanced security through AES-CCMP encryption and a specialized corporate solution to help companies manage their networks. WPA2 has been the industry standard for wireless (Wi-Fi) protocols since its introduction. The Wi-Fi Alliance declared that every device bearing the Wi-Fi trademark must use WPA2 for security.

Is It Enough To Select The Proper Wi-Fi Security System To Safeguard Your Wireless Network?

Nope. The first step in securing your wireless (Wi-Fi) network is to pick a secure wireless security protocol. It's also critical to set up your wireless network securely so it may resist assaults or vulnerabilities as needed. A Unified Endpoint Management solution can also assist you in simplifying and deploying network security settings to managed devices.

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Haseeb Awan
CEO, Efani Secure Mobile

I founded Efani after being Sim Swapped 4 times. I am an experienced CEO with a demonstrated history of working in the crypto and cybersecurity industry. I provide Secure Mobile Service for influential people to protect them against SIM Swaps, eavesdropping, location tracking, and other mobile security threats. I've been covered in New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Hulu, Nasdaq, Netflix, Techcrunch, Coindesk, etc. Contact me at 855-55-EFANI or haseebawan@efani.com for a confidential assessment to see if we're the right fit!

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