Back in 2017 there was a major issue with wireless network security, and as a response the WiFi Alliance has announced a new WPA3 WiFi protocol starting in 2018.
WiFi Security Problems
As mentioned above, 2017 was fraught with issues when it came to wireless security. A flaw was discovered by Mathy Vanhoef, a security researcher from the computer science division of Dutch University KU Leven. The flaw was in WPA2 and mainly affected Android and Linux operating systems, but other platforms were also at risk.
“We discovered serious weaknesses in WPA2, a protocol that secures all modern protected Wi-Fi networks…Attackers can use this novel attack technique to read information that was previously assumed to be safely encrypted. This can be abused to steal sensitive information such as credit card numbers, passwords, chat messages, emails, photos, and so on. The attack works against all modern protected Wi-Fi networks…
The weaknesses are in the Wi-Fi standard itself, and not in individual products or implementations. Therefore, any correct implementation of WPA2 is likely affected…If your device supports Wi-Fi, it is most likely affected. During our initial research, we discovered ourselves that Android, Linux, Apple, Windows, OpenBSD, MediaTek, Linksys, and others, are all affected by some variant of the attacks,” stated Vanhoef.
A WPA2 issue affects pretty much every modern online device, so the WPA3 WiFi protocol was developed in order to address the issue.
According to the WiFi Alliance, the WPA2 specification is going to be adjusted “to reduce the potential for vulnerabilities due to network misconfiguration…[and] further safeguard managed networks with centralized authentication services.” However, the most significant change will be in the introduction of the new WPA3 WiFi protocol coming in 2018.
The WPA3 WiFi protocol will bring a number of new features, with two main additions targeting security – even when low quality passwords are used – as well as making it easier to configure devices that don’t have a display to make getting online easy.
The increase of safety even with poor passwords is a notable addition considering the bad password habits of the majority of online users. Good passwords are long, random, and have a mixture of upper and lowercase letters along with various symbols. However, while those long strings are difficult to crack, they’re also difficult to remember. While there exist a number of password managers to make online security a little bit easier, the adoption of these services is low, and people instead choose the same password for multiple services, leading to lower online security overall. Protecting the wireless network with a new feature from WPA3 WiFi is a welcome change.
The majority of modern devices have some sort of interface in which to connect a device to a wireless network, but there are still a number that don’t have an easy way in which to connect. The new WPA3 WiFi technology that makes the setup process easier will make it easy for the less tech-savvy users to make sure the devices in their home or business are running seamlessly.
These new WPA3 WiFi features function by strengthening user privacy on open networks by implementing individualized data encryption and a new 192-bit security suite will serve to add additional safeguards to WiFi networks with greater security requirements – such as those from governments or defense installations.
Unfortunately, while the updates to WPA2 won’t likely require new hardware, the new WPA3 WiFi protocol will probably necessitate an overhaul of your existing equipment. There hasn’t been any confirmation that new WiFi devices will be required, but given these new features, it’s difficult to see how the WPA3 WiFi features could be implemented with current technology.
Although the WPA3 WiFi technology is coming sooner rather than later, the WiFi alliance will need to certify new devices to make sure everything is running smoothly. For that reason, we shouldn’t see widespread adoption for quite some time. However, the fact that WPA2 is updated to address the security flaws that posed a major threat in 2017 is encouraging, and the technology will likely tide us over till we get our hands on WPA3 WiFi.