What Is WPA? Is It Better than WEP? And What About WPA2?

What is WPA and does it provide much better security than WEP? One of the biggest WiFi problems was a security. WEP could be cracked in a minute. Then WPA appeared on the scene and saved the WiFi.

What is WPA

What is WPA

What is WPA and What Does it Mean?

Wi-Fi Alliance has launched WPA in October 2003. WPA – Wi-Fi Protected Access was much better replacement of WEP. The biggest WEP problem is that it uses a static key. WPA has solved the WEP problems with better encryption and authentication. On the WEP vs WPA there is a parallel review of these two security mechanisms.

What is WPA2?

Soon after WPA, Wi-Fi Alliance has launched WPA2.  Thanks to PSK authentication, it is backward compatible with the WPA. Besides PSK, WPA2 uses much better encryption standard – AEP. IEEE have defined the WPA2 with the 802.11i standard.

Different Modes of WPA and WPA2

WPA and WPA2 are working in two basic modes:

  • Enterprise
  • Personal

According to this, we can divide all WiFi Certified equipment in four groups:

  • WPA-Personal
  • WPA2-Personal
  • WPA-Enterprise
  • WPA2-Enterprise

Here is a brief overview of these four groups. They are divided by the authentication and encryption methods that they use:

WPA

WPA2

Enterprise mode

Authentication:802.1X/EAP
Encryption: TKIP/MIC

Authentication:802.1X/EAP
Encryption: AES/CCMP

Personal mode

Authentication:PSK
Encryption: TKIP/MIC

Authentication:PSK
Encryption: AES/CCMP

WPA and WPA2 in Personal Mode

Personal mode was designed for home and office environment. Here you do not need the special server dedicated for the wireless security. The security level of the wireless network is based on the PSK – pre-shared key or a passpfrase.

The best solution is that PSK is a mix of letters, numbers and non-alphanumeric characters. Both versions of WPA use PSK Authentication. Encryption for the WPA is a TKIP, while for WPA2 is an AES.

WPA and WPA2 in Enterprise Mode

In the enterprise mode you need to have dedicated authentication server – RADIUS server. This mode meets with the rigorous requirements of the enterprise security.

Both versions of WPA use 802.1X/EAP Authentication. WPA has TKIP encryption, while WPA2 has AES.

Read more about the authentication in wireless authentication.

WPA/WPA2 support

You know the answer on the question what is WPA. But how to use this superior WiFi security in your wireless network?

All the new WiFi devices support WPA and WPA2. With the firmware upgrade you can switch your wireless router to the WPA compatible device. The latest firmwares you can found on the vendor’s web sites.

Windows machines from the Windows Vista all support WPA/WPA2. Windows XP needs an operating system update – KB917021.

The clients with Linux also support WPA2. You could use a tool called NetworkManager with GNOME and KDE to configure wireless security settings.

MAC OS X supports WPA2 with release 4.2 update for the AirPort software on all Airport Extreme enabled Macintoshes, the AirPort Extreme Base Station and the AirPort Express.

All new mobile phones with Wi-Fi access support WPA/WPA2.

My Final Note

If you are interested to configure the unbreakable security for your home wireless network, read Wireless Router Setup. Check how to setup the wireless network in five simple steps on Setting Up a Wireless Network. In the article Wireless internet security, learn to configure your home wireless network with the maximum security in five steps.

You know what is WPA and WPA2. Which security method are you using in your wireless network? Are you still using WEP. Leave me the comment.