Today many hacking tools based on Linux and Windows OS are available free of cost on the internet. With highly innovative technology, both wired and wireless networks are prone to intrusion. An unsecured wireless router connected to an office or home network can expose the entire IT infrastructure to hacking. To counter these attacks, various encryption protocols have been developed to stop unauthorized access to networks. The most common wireless security(encryption) protocols are WEP(Wired Equivalent Privacy), WPA(Wi-Fi Protected Access) and WPA-2( Wi-Fi Protected Access 2).
Difference between WEP, WPA, and WPA2
WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy)
Ratified in 1997, this security algorithm was developed to provide wireless security comparable to that of wired network. A 64-bit encryption uses 10 hexadecimal keys(0-9 and A-F) of 4 bits each totaling 40 bits which are further concatenated with 24-bit IV(initialization Vector) to produce 64-bits in total. WEP keys are also available in 128 bits and 256 bits.
Many security flaws were detected in WEP security within few years of its launch. With high computing powers, the hackers were able to break-in the 24-bit initialization vector.
WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access)
To overcome the drawbacks in WEP security, in 2004, the Wi-Fi Alliance developed a more robust security protocol in the form of WPA. Unlike WEP which requires manual entry of 128-bit or 256-bit keys, WAP creates the 128-bit key dynamically for each packet generated by using TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol). The message integrity check adopted by WAP is TKIP which is stronger than CRC ( Cyclic Redundancy Check) used by WEP.
Different WPA versions include WPA-Personal and WPA-Enterprise. WPA-Personal is designed for home and small office use and encrypts the wifi signals with 256-bit keys. WPA-Enterprise, on the other hand, utilizes EAP(Extensible authentication protocol) and RADIUS authentication server is a must for enterprise WPA security.
WPA 2 as the name suggests is the 2nd version of WPA and uses latest AES( Advanced Encryption Standard) instead of TKIP and CCMP (Counter Cipher Mode with Block Chaining Message Authentication Code Protocol) over 24-bit RC-4 algorithm. AES is considered one of the most fortified protocol and is even adopted as an encryption protocol for US government.
If you have the option to select WPA/WPA2, it is recommended to use WPA2 security. In some old routers manufactured prior to 2004, they might be having only WEP as an encryption option and you need to update the router’s firmware from the manufacture’rs website.