What does WEP, WPA and WPA2 mean in wifi security
With WiFi connections we are no longer tied to using a network cable to surf the Internet or connect to the local network.
Thanks to WiFi devices such as smartphones, tablets but also TV and consoles have been able to integrate more advanced features, benefiting from the advantages of the Internet without being slaves of a bulky cable.
The absence of the wire, however, has opened an important “chasm” of security when it concerns the control of devices that we can connect to our modem: without adequate protection anyone can take advantage of the wireless network at home to surf the Internet without paying nothing and making civil and criminal responsibilities fall on us (if the scrounger downloads music and films illegally with our network, the competent authorities will take it with us).
If we are a beginner with WiFi we have to learn how to protect our wireless network and what it means WEP, WPA and WPA2 , so as not to find us unprepared and “exploited” by the smartest people.
1) What WEP means, the weakest protection (to avoid) :
The first form of protection that we can apply to our WiFi network is WEP , a fairly old security protocol and obsolete offering only minimal protection against unwanted intrusion.
At the beginning of the WiFi was one of the most used but the methods to violate it have grown like bread (complete with detailed guides) and now you can illegally get the password access WEP in a few seconds , even from mobile!
Therefore, using WEP protection is like having no active protection: we will keep away users with little computer skills while anyone who knows how to use a little Internet will steal your password and will use our connection without problems, even with a long password .
Better not to use it !
2) Which means WPA, the most compatible protection :
In order to respond to WEP’s vulnerabilities, a much more effective protection protocol was born: WPA .
WPA is more difficult to violate and still offers a good level of protection in all usage scenarios, in particular by choosing a fairly long password and a modern encryption (such as AES).
For home use, reference is made to the WPA-PSK, which is the access by keyword (to distinguish it from the WPA-Enterprise, where a server is required and a valid certificate for each connection).
WPA remains sensitive to dictionary attacks , ie those hacker attacks in which the attacker exploits a database of common words to guess the password used by making numerous attempts in a second (the speed depends on the power of the PC used for hacking): if we use WPA is better to choose a beautiful long password and that does not contain any reference to names, people, dates, birthdays or any word can be indexed in a dictionary.
WPA has been replaced by WPA2 but remains available to connect the old WiFi devices not compatible with the new protocol, not by chance many modern routers offer WPA / WPA2 mixed protection: if the connected device is recent the modem will always use WPA2, otherwise it will use WPA for maximum compatibility.
3) What WPA2 means, the most effective protection :
Currently, the most effective protection system for any WiFi network is WPA2 .
Born as an evolution of WPA, it offers a very high level of encryption (uses AES and CCMP automatically) and is less sensitive to dictionary attacks, which makes it the best “lock” that we can put on our wireless network.
For home use, refer to the WPA2-PSK, which is the access by keyword (to distinguish it from the WPA2-Enterprise, where a server is required and a valid certificate for each connection).
We always recommend to use WPA2 if we have all recent devices (released on the market at least from 2010 onwards), while if we have some older device still working we recommend to adopt mixed protection, ie WPA / WPA2 (will be our modem/router to choose the best protection based on the device that requires the connection).
4) Change WiFi protection
Now that we know what the various abbreviations WEP, WPA and WPA2 mean, we will show you how to quickly change the type of protection.
This modification can only be done on the modem/router control panel, so before proceeding, we will have to access this panel.
In most cases it is sufficient to open a browser in a device already connected to the network and type one of the following addresses in the top bar:
We will then have access to the modem login screen and, after entering username and password (if we have never changed the credentials are usually admin/admin), we will have access to the configuration panel.
From the configuration panel we look for the section WiFi, Wireless, Wireless Settings or WiFi Security (the names change according to the model of modem or router in possession) to change the type of protection applied to our WiFi network; choose between WPA2-PSK or mixed protection (WPA-PSK together with WPA2-PSK).
If we have a dual-band WiFi modem (which also transmits on 5GHz) we will have to make the same change for the other frequency, so as to always have the maximum protection whatever the network used.
5) Find out what kind of WiFi protection we are using
We do not know what kind of WiFi protection do I use for the network we are connected to?
If we use a public hotspot, knowing this information will allow you to understand if the data you are exchanging with the router is safe or not.
To quickly check the type of WiFi protection of your network or nearby networks we can use a free app for Android like WiFiAnalyzer , available for download.
Once the app is installed, it will be sufficient to open the section reserved for access points to know the protection adopted by the network to which we are connected and the protections adopted by neighboring networks.