No matter how many encryption protocols you use to protect the data over wireless networks, it can't be as secure as it is with wired networks until you're taking some preventive measures. At its most basic level, a wired network transmits the data between two points using a cable.
In contrast to this, wireless networks broadcast the message in every direction during transmissions and are more vulnerable to threats. Here come into the play various Wi-Fi security and related protocols.
As the name suggests, wireless security is a method of preventing unauthorized access to various wireless networks. It secures your Wi-Fi networks or your computer from various malicious attempts and unauthorized access.
Since it is easy to collect a lot of personal information from the wireless networks and the data flowing through them, wireless security becomes essential. No one should get access to your home network or your office network to breach your privacy.
Also, the hacker can misuse an IP address and commit an illegal activity that ultimately leads to you being questioned. Nowadays, every wireless system relies on Wireless Networking and the relevant security protocols.
Wi-Fi Security Levels and How Do They Work?
Wireless security can be implemented at three different levels, and these are:
It is the use of computer hardware to assist the software or even replace the software for data encryption. This is typically implemented as part of the processor instruction set; for example, the AES encryption algorithm can be implemented using the AES instruction set on the ubiquitous x86 architecture.
Similar instructions also exist in ARM architecture. Also, the system's hardware, like routers and switches, is fabricated with encryption measures to protect wireless communication.
The whole process of encryption at the hardware level will make your system safe. Even if a hacker attacks your data or system, he will be incapable of decrypting your data and hence will not be able to view your traffic's content. Hardware implementations of encryption can be faster and less prone to exploitation and are also protected against tempering.
Wireless Setup of IDS and IPS
A secured Wi-Fi network that offers both wired and wireless access always requires a modern security approach. The security should be integrated and can detect cross-network threats, and the security elements should be critical and able to mitigate and detect threats effortlessly. Such security elements in Wireless networks are IDS/IPS. Both of them perform their own roles to detect threats in Wi-Fi networks. Below, we have shared the definitions and functions of IDS/IPS.
A Wireless Intrusion Detection System
IDS keeps the check on the radio spectrum to detect any unauthorized use and the use of wireless attack tools. The system monitors the radio spectrum used by various LANs and alerts the system administrator whenever the rogue access point is detected.
A Wireless Intrusion Prevention System
IPS prevents unauthorized network access to LANs by monitoring the radio spectrum for unauthorized access points- intrusion detection and automatically taking countermeasures to prevent intrusion prevention.
Setting up IDS and IPS helps in detecting, alerting, and preventing wireless networks. Large organizations with many employees are particularly vulnerable to security breaches. In July 2009, the PCI security standards council published wireless guidelines For PCI DSS and recommended wireless IPS.
Wireless Security Algorithms
Wireless security algorithms are the most common and efficient type used for the protection of a wireless network. A security protocol applies various cryptographic methods, often sequences of cryptographic primitives, to ensure the security and authenticity of the data.
These security protocols are created by the wireless alliance to ensure wireless security. The algorithms include WEP, WPA, and WPA2 wireless security protocols.
Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP)
The most popular and used Wi-Fi security protocol was Wired Equivalent Privacy, also known as WEP. It was so popular because it is very old and compatible with older hardware or software pieces. Also, it is the first option listed in the protocol selection list of options in many router control panels.
In September of 1999, Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) was approved as a Wi-Fi security standard. The starting versions of this security protocol were not quite strong. Since then, the U.S. has restricted the export of various cryptographic technology, which led to producers limiting their devices to only 64-bit encryption.
But it was later upgraded to 128-bit encryption when the restrictions were removed. WEP 128-bit encrypted version was a great success and was popular even after the introduction of 256-bit encrypted WEP.
Even though Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) was popular, it had many security flaws. It was very easy to break and was hard to configure. Although there were many upgrades in protocols and an increase in bit encryption, there were still many problems.
One of them includes WEP password cracking within a few minutes by using various freely available software tools. From 2001 to 2005, the FBI started to give public awareness about the drawbacks of WEP's security protocols.
After many improvements and changes in WEP security protocol, there were still problems, and the hackers could break the security. Therefore for security reasons, Wi-Fi Alliance with authorization discharged WEP in 2004.
Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA)
WPA was the Wi-Fi Alliance's direct response and an attempt to substitute WEP because of the increasing vulnerabilities of the WEP. The Wi-Fi Protected Access was formally adopted in 2003, just before a year when WEP retired.
The best configuration of the WPA is WPA-PSK. A Pre-Shared Key uses a 256-bit key and is a significant increase over the 64-bit and 128-bit keys previously used in the WEP system. WPA-PSKs automatically change the keys at each interval, and hence it is more difficult for hackers to exploit them.
WPA also incorporated several important changes than its ancestor. Significant ones include the following:
- Message integrity checks: It helps to determine if an attacker had captured or altered packets passed between the access point and client destination.
- TKIP: It stands for Temporal Key Integrity Protocol and employs a per-packet key system that is radically more secure than the fixed key system used by WEP. With the TKIP encryption, a message integrity code is achieved that ensures that the data is not spoofed and replaces WEP's weaker packet guarantee called cyclic redundancy check. However, the TKIP was also then replaced and superseded by AES- Advanced Encryption Standard.
- Authentication support: WPA provides the support for remote authentication. With this setup, the server can access device credentials to authenticate the user right before connecting to the network. It includes extensible authentication protocol messages, and when a device connects to WPA, a four-way handshake is done. It takes place between the access point that is usually a router and device.
TKIP, the core element of WPA, was designed to be easily rolled out via firmware upgrades onto existing WEP-enabled devices. It had to recycle various elements used in WEP devices, which finally led to their exploitation.
Despite what significant improvement WPA has over WEP, it still has some drawbacks. WEP has shown both proof-of-concept and applied public demonstration vulnerabilities like WAP. Surprisingly, WPA is usually breached by an attack on a supplementary system rolled out with WPA—WPS.
Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2)
Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) officially out-dated Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) in 2006. It is better than WPA, but the most noteworthy change between WPA and WPA2 is that instead of TKIP, it uses AES algorithms and the introduction of CCMP.
CCMP is a Counter Cipher Mode with Block Chaining Message Authentication Code Protocol. TKIP is still present in the WPA2 protocol as the other option available for the system and the interoperability with WPA.
However, the main issue with the network's security is obscure, and the attacker needs to gain access to the secured Wi-Fi network to gain access to certain keys and only then can perpetrate an attack. The security threats are limited to enterprise-level networks and need no practical consideration regarding home network security.
WPA2 and WPA are almost the same in security measures. It also resembles the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) in terms of the capability to access points. The biggest vulnerability of the WPA, the attack vector through the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), remains in modern WPA2.
Though the attacker will take 2 to 14 hours, it still is a security threat. WPA should be disabled, and it would be good if the access point's firmware will also be reset/ flashed to a distribution not supporting WPS to get the attack vector entirely removed.
The current scenario of Wi-Fi security methods available on any router post 2006 are as follows:
- WPA2 + AES
- WPA + AES
- WPA + TKIP/AES
- WPA + TKIP
- Open Network (no security at all)
The ideal security for your router will be WPA2 + AES. Everything else other than this is less than ideal in the list. There are some things that you can try to enhance the security of your Wi-Fi network.
Steps to Maximize Your Home Wireless Network Security:
Here are some of the steps that can maximize your security when it comes to the home Wi-Fi network:
- Don’t keep the default name of your home network; change it as soon as you can. Most of the time, the name of your Wi-Fi network is SSID (Service Set Identifier) or named after the service you are using (i.e. D'Link). But that is too common and can be hacked easily by an expert. Also, if you set something too identifiable such as your name or something that triggers challenges such as “you can’t hack my Wi-Fi”, etc., it can attract attention. So, try something short and nice, such as “not a Wi-Fi but can fly”, would do.
- Use a strong password to secure your network. Passwords with the combination of letters, numbers, and various symbols would do the job.
- Activate the WEP, WPA, or WPA2 wifi protection languages.
- Turn off your Wi-Fi network when you are going out or not using the internet from your home network.
- Please try to place the Wi-Fi router in the middle of your house and not outside or somewhere that can be accessible by intruders.
- You can change your default IP address on the Wi-Fi router to increase security. You will find it in the Network > LAN section.
- To increase security, turn off the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server that assigns the IP address to each device that connects to the network. And get a static address instead.
- Don’t allow another device (the one that is not connected to the Wi-Fi network) to access the router’s settings. Turn off the Remote access or Remote Administration option from the privacy settings in your router’s web interface.
- Keep your router’s firmware updated to remove any security flaws or vulnerabilities that can easily help hackers hack your Wi-Fi network.
- You can also use hardware firewalls to keep cyber-attacks away from your router. Firewalls are an extra layer of protection, and if you are already using them on your PC and other devices, they will help you with security even more.
- Don’t leave any security holes that can give the criminals the advantage to hack your network. Apply the latest security patches to your network and make sure your devices have a good antivirus program installed.
These are some protection tips for your home wireless network that you can use to keep your information safe. In case you have any additional safety tips on your mind, apply them too.
The Wi-Fi security protocols have gone through many changes and upgrades since the 1990s to make internet connections more secure and effective. The above article discusses WEP, WPA, and WPA2, serving the same purpose.
The WEP was first among the three, which WPA later replaced. Also, because of its specific vulnerabilities, it was upgraded to WPA version 2. The system is still working on the limitations of WPA 2, which will be covered in WPA 3.
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