Difference between WPA, WPA2 & WEP Wi-Fi Protocols

There are many inherent risks associated with wireless protocols and encryption methods. So, to minimize them a robust framework of different wireless security protocols is used. These Wireless Security Protocols assure prevention of unauthorized access to computers by encrypting the transmitted data on a wireless network.

Difference between WPA2, WPA, WEP Wi-Fi Protocols

WPA2, WPA, WEP Wi-Fi Protocols

Most wireless access points come with the ability to enable one of three wireless encryption standards:

  1. WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy)
  2. WPA or Wi-Fi Protected Access
  3. WPA2

WEP or Wired Equivalent Privacy

The first wireless security network to mark its appearance was WEP or Wired Equivalent Privacy. It started off with 64-bit encryption (weak) and eventually went all the way up to 256-bit encryption (strong). The most popular implementation in routers continues to be 128-bit encryption (intermediate).

It was considered as the eventual solution until security researchers discovered several vulnerabilities in it that allowed hackers to crack a WEP key within a few minutes. It used CRC or Cyclic Redundancy Check.

WPA or Wi-Fi Protected Access

To address its shortcomings, WPA was developed as a new security standard for wireless protocols. It used TKIP or Temporal Key Integrity Protocol to ensure message integrity. This was different from WEP in a way, the former used CRC or Cyclic Redundancy Check. TKIP was believed to be much stronger than CRC. The use of it ensured that every data packet was sent with a unique encryption key. Key mixing increased the complexity of decoding the keys and thereby reducing instances of intrusions. However, like WEP, WPA too had a flaw. As such, WPA was advanced into WPA 2.

WPA2

WPA 2 is currently recognized as the most secure protocol. Single most important change visible between WPA and WPA2 is the mandatory use of AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) algorithms and the introduction of CCMP (Counter Cipher Mode with Block Chaining Message Authentication Code Protocol) as a replacement for TKIP.

The CCM mode combines Counter (CTR) mode privacy and Cipher Block Chaining Message Authentication Code (CBC-MAC) authentication. These modes have been extensively studied and are found to have well-understood cryptographic properties which provide good security and performance in software or hardware.

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The author Hemant Saxena is a post-graduate in bio-technology and has an immense interest in following Windows, Office and other technology developments. Quiet by nature, he is an avid Lacrosse player. Creating a System Restore Point first before installing a new software, and being careful about any third-party offers while installing freeware is recommended.