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The Difference Between WEP, WPA, and WPA2 Wi-Fi protocols

Pretty much everywhere you go today, there is a WiFi network you can connect to. Whether it be at home, at the office or at the local coffee shop.
Every WiFi network is setup with some kind of network security, either open for all to access or extremely restricted where only certain clients can connect.

Even if you know you need to secure your Wi-Fi network (and have already done so), you probably find all the security protocols little bit confusing.
Read this article wrote by our own Nimrod Levy as we highlight the differences between protocols WEP, WPA, and WPA2 and why it matters which protocol you slap on your home or business Wi-Fi network.

Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP)
Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) is the most widely used Wi-Fi security protocol in the world.
This is a function of age, compatibility, and the fact that it appears first in the protocol selection menus in many router control panels.

WEP was the Wi-Fi security standard in 1999. The first versions of WEP weren’t particularly strong, even for the time they were released,
because U.S. restrictions on the export of various cryptographic technology led to manufacturers restricting their devices to only 64-bit encryption. When the restrictions were lifted, it was increased to 128-bit.
Despite the introduction of 256-bit WEP, 128-bit remains one of the most common implementations.

Over time numerous security flaws were discovered in the WEP standard.
As computing power increased, it became easier and easier to exploit those flaws.
As early as 2001, proof-of-concept exploits were floating around, and by 2005, the FBI gave a public demonstration where they cracked WEP passwords in minutes using freely available software.
Despite various improvements, the WEP system remains highly vulnerable.
Systems that rely on WEP should be upgraded or replaced.

Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA)
Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) was the direct response and replacement to the increasingly apparent vulnerabilities of the WEP standard. The most common WPA configuration is WPA-PSK (Pre-Shared Key).
The keys used by WPA are 256-bit, a significant increase over the 64-bit and 128-bit keys used in the WEP system.

Some of the significant changes implemented with WPA included message integrity checks in order to determine if an attacker had captured or altered packets passed between the access point and client, and the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP).
TKIP employs a per-packet key system that was radically more secure than the fixed key system used by WEP.
The TKIP encryption standard was later superseded by Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).

WPA, like its predecessor WEP, has been shown via both proof-of-concept and applied public demonstrations to be vulnerable to intrusion.
Interestingly, the process by which WPA is usually breached is not a direct attack on the WPA protocol, but by attacks on a supplementary system that was rolled out with WPA which was designed to make it easy to link devices to modern access points.

Wi-Fi protocols
Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2)
WPA has, as of 2006, been officially replaced by WPA2.
One of the most significant changes between WPA and WPA2 is the mandatory use of AES algorithms and the introduction of CCMP (Counter Cipher Mode with Block Chaining Message Authentication Code Protocol) as a replacement for TKIP. However, TKIP is still preserved in WPA2 as a fallback system and for interoperability with WPA.

Currently, the primary security vulnerability to the actual WPA2 system requires the attacker to already have access to the secured Wi-Fi network in order to gain access to certain keys and then perpetuate an attack against other devices on the network.
Due to that, the security implications of the known WPA2 vulnerabilities are limited almost entirely to enterprise level networks and deserve little to no practical consideration in regard to home network security.

In conclusion,
If you need to remember something from all this, it’s this: WPA2 is the most secure protocol and AES with CCMP is the most secure encryption.
In addition, WPS should be disabled as it’s very easy to hack and capture the router PIN, which can then be used to connect to the router.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact us, our company specializes in securing your network at home or at your business.

Tags: WIFI Penetration Testing WIFI Network Penetration Testing Penetration Testing

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