Want to keep freeloaders and hackers from gaining access to your Wi-Fi network and your private data? You’ll have to set the right security protocols in your router. But, the letters and numbers you find in your router’s security options can be quite confusing.
Do not panic. This article will lay out everything you need to know about WEP, WPA, and WPA2.
What Are WEP, WPA, and WPA2?
There have been significant advancements in Wi-Fi security protocols since 1990. The evolution of technology has led to security protocols that are more secure and keep more individuals from accessing your private information.
Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP)
Wired Equivalent Privacy (also known as WEP) is the most commonly used security protocol. But why is that? Well, for one, it’s the oldest, so it’s compatible with almost any router.
First ratified in 1999, even the earliest versions of WEP were not stable. It started off with 64-bit encryption, but today it can go up to 256-bit encryption (although most machines still use 128-bit encryption). That means your router uses a 256-bit key (like an algorithm) to encrypt data or files so no one else can read them.
Unfortunately, there are many flaws with the WEP protocol that can compromise your security. In 2005, the FBI was able to break a 128-bit WEP key in around three minutes. Then, in 2008, companies that use major credit card were banned from using WEP encryption back in 2008.
Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA)
Wi-Fi Protected Access (also known as WPA) is the primary replacement for the WEP protocol. In 2003, the Wi-Fi Alliance introduced WPA as an interim solution to the limited protection offered by WEP. Its most common configuration is WPA-PSK. Using a 256-bit key, it is a stronger router security measure compared to WEP.
What else makes it more secure?
For starters, WPA added support for Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) encryption. This means it is equipped to tell if someone else is hacking and altering the information that comes through the router.
WPA also has Message Integrity Checks (MIC), which can tell if someone has captured or altered packets of data from the access point to the client.
While WPA was more secure than the previous protocol, there are still vulnerabilities. That is because producers needed to use the old router shells still. But the old routers did not have the proper capabilities to run WPA properly. That led to the recycling of some of the elements in the WEP system.
Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2)
Wi-Fi Protected Access II (also known as WPA2) was released in 2006 to replace the WPA protocol. WPA2 also introduced the Counter Cipher Mode with Block Chaining Message Authentication Code Protocol (CCMP) to replace TKIP.
WPA2 still has vulnerabilities, but manufacturers are quick to provide security patch updates to counter those. As a user, you should also update your device with these security patches as soon as they are out.
AES or TKIP
Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is a standard of encryption established by the US government in 2001 to protect classified information.
TKIP is the older version, while AES is the newer version. Ultimately, AES is more secure.
So, Which Router Security Option Should You Choose?
Here is a list of the security protocols ranked from the most secure to least secure:
- WPAWPA2-PSK (TKIP/AES) – Most secure option, but not available on most routers
- WPA2-PSK (AES) – Most secure option for most routers
- WPA2-PSK (TKIP) – Still usable, minimal security
- WPA-PSK (AES) – Still usable, minimal security
- WPA-PSK (TKIP) – Not very secure
- WEP 128 – Risky
- WEP 64 – Highly risky
- Open network or no passcode at all – No security
WPA2 and AES are the best settings to secure your Wi-Fi connection from hackers. If hackers are able to breach your network, they could steal important information, like bank details, or even your identity.
Using an open network means you won’t have a password, so anyone can have access to your Wi-Fi and all the devices on your network.
Make sure to buy a router with the highest level of security possible. Now that you know why WPA2 is the most secure, apply it to your router for improved protection of your online information.
How To Set Your Wi-Fi Security Protocols
- Type your router’s IP address in a web browser’s search bar.
- Enter your router’s username and password.
- Go to Wireless Security. This tab or page may be called something else in your router.
- Select a security protocol.
Want to know more ways to keep your router secured? Check out our previous article here.