WPA3 WLAN Encryption: All Good Things Come In 3s!

19. December, 2018

The significance of WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network) has risen sharply, with the increasing spread of mobile devices. The security standards used in the process are correspondingly relevant.

The current protocol WPA2 (WiFi Protected Access) from 2004 is getting on in years. In early 2018, the WiFi Alliance (WFA) announced an update at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. WPA3 is the designated successor, which should eliminate weak points as well as the comfort and the security would clearly increase. In the last weeks of 2018, the WPA3 standard was finalized and is about to be officially introduced. What will change and what will improve?

Most important WiFi update for more than a decade

According to various estimates, there are more systems with WLAN interfaces than people worldwide – around 9 billion! When planning WPA3, a new, more open approach was therefore chosen to strengthen the robustness, convenience and security of WLAN access for clients

Four new functions for more comfort and safety:

  1. Improved protection against weak passwords:
    The mechanisms of encryption and authentication are extremely improved: Simple passwords are internally extended and supplemented so that they are no longer easy to circumvent. It is more difficult to try out passwords and it is no longer possible to guess and test different combinations as with WPA2.
  2. Support for systems without display:
    New configuration methods have been developed for devices without displays (e.g. IoT systems). Coupling to WLAN networks can be done securely with the help of apps to a smartphone and the QR code on such a system.
  3. „Privacy by Default“ now also in open networks:
    Even in the free hotspot networks, WLAN data is now transmitted encrypted by default. Simple monitoring of connections is thus effectively prevented. Each client automatically receives an individual encryption to increase data security and integrity.
  4. Improved Enterprise features:
    With modern encryption standards, WPA3 enables the use of WiFi in areas with increased security requirements, for example in the military or in sensitive company areas. A minimum key length of 192bit is used. New and improved algorithms are also available.

Introduction and dissemination of WPA3 planned for 2019

According to the WiFi Alliance (WFA), the new WPA3 standard should be backward-compatible with WPA2. For newer and current WiFi systems an update of the software should be sufficient. Only older equipment may have to be replaced completely.
A cross-sector introduction of the new WPA3 standard is expected in the next year. In Windows 10, such an update has already been viewed in the current build preview.

Security in free WLAN

Filter rules and access restrictions offer an additional protection for the WLAN users and operators. Professional security services check all access, block unwanted content based on URLs, categories, blacklists and whitelists, and enable multiple network areas, administrative permission levels, access profiles and controls or download limits. Free WiFi hotspots can be protected against malware and abuse and also legally protected.

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