Wi-Fi Security is Getting an Upgrade

In a time where network security seems to be more important than ever before, it’s hard to believe that the security framework of the technology that we connect billions of devices to hasn’t been updated in 14 years. To put that in to perspective, the last time there was a major update to Wi-Fi security was 3 years before the first iPhone was released. Earlier this week, the Wi-Fi Alliance, the organization that manages Wi-Fi technologies, announced that is about to change. With the official release of Wi-Fi Protected Access 3 (WPA3), a new generation of Wi-Fi protection capabilities for personal and business networks is introduced.

WPA3 comes in two deployment models, Personal and Enterprise, primarily aimed at devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones. WPA3 Personal is the model that most of us will interact with on a regular basis as we replace older devices. WPA3 Enterprise will be recommended for devices used in enterprise, financial, and government networks. According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, both models add new features to simplify Wi-Fi security, enable more robust authentication, deliver increased cryptographic strength, and maintain resiliency of mission critical networks.

WPA3-Personal will provide more comprehensive password-based authentication, even if you choose a password that might not meet typical password complexity recommendations. The current wireless security protocol, WPA2, had an inherent weakness, in that it could let hackers deploy something called an offline dictionary attack to try and guess your password as many times as they wanted. WPA3 protects against this by leveraging a modernized protocol that blocks authentication requests after several failed attempts. An additional new feature known as Forward Secrecy ensures that even if someone discovers a Wi-Fi network’s password, they can’t look at old information sent inside that network by other people.

Another introduction with WPA3 will make connecting wireless devices that might not have a screen easier. The feature called Wi-Fi Easy Connect, would include items like your smart door locks, smart light bulbs, and more. Configuring these devices is now as simple as scanning a product QR code to enable use on a Wi-Fi network. Wi-Fi Easy Connect will be available for devices running both WPA2 and WPA3, and this is not a WPA3-exclusive feature.

WPA3 is currently optional for all newly produced devices and but will soon become the standard. This means that the new protections provided with WPA3 won’t start immediately. In fact, it will likely be several years as you update routers and devices that support WPA3 (or hope that your old one is updated to support it). Fortunately, devices that support WPA3 can still connect with devices that use WPA2, so your old gadgets shouldn’t suddenly stop working because you brought something new into the house.