Best of 2018: 4 Things to Know About the WPA3 Protocol

As we close out 2018, we at Security Boulevard wanted to highlight the five most popular articles of the year. Following is the first in our weeklong series of the Best of 2018.

 The Wi-Fi Alliance, the organization that certifies Wi-Fi networking standards, recently announced the WPA3 protocol, which is considered the newest way to secure devices that use wireless technology. Here are four things people need to know about the WPA3 Protocol and what it does.

It Protects Against Brute Force Dictionary Attacks

WPA stands for Wi-Fi Protected Access, which governs what happens when people connect to closed Wi-Fi networks. Through encryption, it protects passwords and other information from outside parties that try to infiltrate the system and gain access to data.

WPA2 was previously the best available protocol, but WPA3 offers several advantages above and beyond. For one, it provides robust protection even for people who choose weak passwords. It also safeguards against brute force dictionary attacks, which involve hackers using software to rapidly attempt to enter words found in a dictionary until they stumble upon the right password. Although it doesn’t make those efforts impossible, WPA3 requires hackers to interact with the network before each password-cracking attempt, making them unable to use automated software.

It Will Make Public Networks More Secure

By now, most people know using a public Wi-Fi network—such as one at a coffee shop or shopping center—is riskier than logging into a private network. That’s because anyone who is also using that connection point could intercept data from other devices.

However, one of the main improvements of WPA3 is that it will individually encrypt Wi-Fi connections on public networks with unique keys, thereby making people feel more comfortable about using them.

Even with that extra measure against hackers, however, users should still take care to follow public network best practices, such as not allowing their computers to automatically log into known networks and avoiding visiting sites such as online banking portals or places that require credit card information.

Workplaces should also ensure their employees know not to handle confidential data when using public networks. Many companies use context-based authentication and authorization systems to evaluate access permission attempts based on the amount of perceived risk they include.

It’s foolish to take such a wise approach at work but allow employees to view sensitive material on public networks when they’re away from their offices. WPA3 has numerous security-related improvements, but no protocol is perfect.

It Won’t Make All Older Devices Useless

Announcements about new technologies invariably make people wonder if progress will render their older devices obsolete.

Device manufacturers haven’t been as forthcoming with information about that matter as people would like, but Meraki has said its customers using the WPA2 protocol can get the improved WPA3 protection through a cloud update.

Outside of that, the Wi-Fi Alliance has said WPA2-compatible devices are not immediately obsolete. When routers with WPA3 technology reach the market, they’ll work with both the WPA2 and WPA3 protocols.

People Can Start Using WPA3 This Year

The transition from WPA2 to WPA3 is already underway since the Wi-Fi Alliance officially announced the WPA3 protocol June 25. But, individuals won’t start seeing WPA3 devices in the mainstream until manufacturers begin making components that support the protocol.

Qualcomm revealed intentions to incorporate WPA3 compatibility in all of its chipsets this summer, starting with the Snapdragon 345 Mobile Platform and eventually extending to all of the brand’s networking infrastructure products.

While they offer the WPA3 protocol, some companies may also provide products with what’s known as Wi-Fi Easy Connect. It lets people add devices to their networks even if those items don’t have screens. They’ll do so by scanning QR codes associated with each Wi-Fi-enabled product.

Better Connections for an Evolving Society

WPA2 was the standard beginning in 2004. However, a vulnerability discovered last fall highlighted how hackers could exploit its cryptographic elements and read or steal data. WPA3 represents a new protocol with numerous improvements.

Luckily, people who find themselves increasingly dependent on technology can feel confident that the Wi-Fi Alliance engineered a protocol that deals with that known shortcoming and caters to peoples’ internet connection preferences, habits and concerns.

Kayla Matthews

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Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews writes about cybersecurity, data privacy and technology for Digital Trends, Cloud Tweaks, TechnoBuffalo and The Daily Dot. To read more of Kayla’s articles, visit her blog Productivity Bytes.

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