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What is WPA3, the new standard for WiFi security

wifi router

WiFi has a new security protocol, and its called WPA3.

Though we already get crazy-fast speeds with our mobile internet connections, there are still many issues like data caps and poor coverage. Until we solve them, standard home connections will still rule a big part of our lives, and that of course includes WiFi. Which itself includes living with a password (unless you want your neighbor to steal your internet).

WiFi and passwords go in hand in hand. So one would expect that security standards for WiFi would be continuously updated, considering how broadly we use it. Can you guess how much time passed between the latest WiFi security protocol and the previous one? Think so?

How about 14 years?

That’s right: the latest security protocol called WPA3 (WiFi Protected Access) is finally here. With it, WiFi gets a new, much-appreciated layer of security measures to make our home networks feel more secure. The organization responsible for setting WiFi standards across all brands in the market, aptly called The WiFi Alliance, has begun to certify WPA3-enabled products.

But what does it do?

The biggest difference between WPA2 and WPA3 is that the new standard fixes a big flaw that has been present all of these years. With WPA2, anyone looking to gain access to a network had an unlimited number of chances to enter the correct passwords. This of course let the door open to hackers: they could let machines run and try to guess your password for as long as they were willing to wait.

This is a problem many other services reliant on passwords have solved by either limiting the amount of tries a user has to enter the password or using other methods like reCAPTCHAs. What WPA3 will do is give you just one try to enter the password. If you fail, you must psychically interact with the router to successfully connect the device.

Addionally, before, hackers had the opportunity to check your traffic flow from a date even prior to them getting access. Now, that problem has also been mended: if a hacker does get into your network, they will only be able to check your current traffic, not previous one, since that one will be encrypted.

IoT has to do with this

Why the WiFi Alliance took 14 years to introduce a new, more secure standard is a big mystery. Just kidding: WPA2 has actually being continuously updated throughout the years. So in reality, WPA3 took so long simply because WPA2 has worked pretty well for the most part. But inevitably, the introduction of new products has led to a necessary change.

The Internet of Things is upon us now. It’s not just laptops and phones using our WiFi connections, it’s also fridges, toasters and who-knows-what-else. WPA3 brings a feature called Easy Connect that makes it easier for these home appliances don’t have easy-to-use interfaces for connecting. The trick? Scanning QR codes.

Beyond that, though, WP3 won’t actually be around us for some time. WPA3 is a hardware standard, so all currently existing devices are out of the equation. The WiFi Alliance expects WPA3 to start being widely available by the end of 2019, but it will be a lot longer before older WPA2 are phased out completely.