After 14 years, a new generation of Wi-Fi security is coming. Here’s what to know

ASRock X10 IoT Router

(in)Secure is a weekly column that dives into the rapidly escalating topic of cybersecurity.

Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) is something that internet users the world over have enjoyed the protection of for nearly two decades in one guise or another, but because it’s so unobtrusive, you might never have noticed it.

With the certification of a third-generation of that protection, (WPA3) it’s as good a time as ever to brush up on what this important security standard does and what a new version could mean for your future wireless access and hardware choices.

What does WPA actually do?

Although the original WPA was introduced in 2003, it was swiftly replaced by WPA2 in 2004 and until recently, that’s been the standard security system in place for home wireless networks and built in to just about every home router you could buy. Indeed in order to claim that a router supported “Wi-Fi” manufacturers had to include WPA2 security in their product.

WPA is a method of protecting the content you transmit between your wireless device and your router. WPA2 implemented strong encryption of wireless connections so that once the router acknowledges that your device’s Wi-Fi password matches the one in its memory, devices not connected to the network can’t snoop on the traffic you’re sending back and forth.

What’s different with WPA3?

Much as WPA2 was seen as a leap in protection for wireless internet networks, WPA3 makes a similar step forward in securing the data of the network’s users by enhancing encryption to 128-bit. It also expands beyond the home in a few interesting ways.

With WPA3 you’ll be able to connect smart devices lacking a display to your network by using a device like your smartphone.

WPA3 introduces “Simultaneous Authentication of Equals,” otherwise known as the Dragonfly Key Exchange system. It makes passwords resistant to dictionary hacks by requiring network interaction in order to attempt a login. That boils down to users being able to use easy-to-remember passwords, whilst still protecting their network from easy infiltration.

Even if you end up enjoying this new security feature though, we’d still recommend you use a complicated password and save it in a password manager.

WPA3 also takes a stab at protecting typically vulnerable public networks. Where open Wi-Fi networks in airports, coffee shops, and hotels have been easy hunting grounds for hackers in the past due to completely unsecured and unencrypted connections, WPA3 will change that with new security protocols. “Individualized data encryption” provides a fully encrypted, one-off connection for those connecting to a WPA3-certified router over an open Wi-Fi network. That means that the connection between your device and the router is encrypted, despite the fact that you never entered a password to use it.

switchmate magnetically attaches to make light switches smart switch

The Internet of Things (IoT) has also received much attention under WPA3. With so many smart devices having no display, WPA3 makes it so that you’ll be able to connect these devices to your network by using a companion device like your smartphone. Instead of tapping in a password though, you’ll be able to scan a QR code, providing a quick and secure method of getting a new IoT device online.

Governments and corporations will be able to take advantage of WPA3 Enterprise too, which provides even greater security with stronger encryption options. At a minimum, WPA3-Enterprise offers 192-bit encryption, but there are also options for 256-bit and even 384-bit encryption for different authentication settings.

Will my router support it?

While we know many router manufacturers are keen to implement WPA3 security in new products, it’s not clear if existing routers will be able to.

Qualcomm, Silicon Motion, Marvell, Huawei Wireless, and Hewlett Packard have pledge support for WPA3.

Cisco recently stated that it was looking for ways to implement the enhanced security measures of WPA3 in its existing lines of networking hardware. It didn’t state whether this was something we could expect to see in just select models — or in a wide range of existing hardware though.

Linksys contacted Digital Trends to confirm its commitment to bringing WPA3 security to new and existing hardware, though again wasn’t able to provide any firm guidelines of if or when it would come to specific models.

“Linksys plans to support next-generation WPA3 security,” Linksys said in its statement. “This functionality is highly dependent on the Wi-Fi chipset provider, thus support will be on a case-by-case basis.  If legacy products are supported, Linksys will deploy automatic firmware updates to all enabled products.  In many cases, WPA3 support will be offered in newer chipset and products.  More details will be released at time of availability.”

Intel too has committed to implementing the new standard where possible. GM of Intel’s Wireless Solutions Group, Eric Mclaughlin said, “Intel supports WPA3 and through our involvement in the test bed, we are helping our customers incorporate WPA3 into their products for enhanced security protections.”

how to extend wi fi range with another router wrt1900acs position location direction improve signal

Other companies which have also pledged support for WPA3 include Qualcomm, Silicon Motion, Marvell, Huawei Wireless, and Hewlett Packard. While most if not all of these companies will implement WPA3 in their new hardware, it remains to be seen how many WPA2 certified products that consumers and businesses currently own will be able to meet the new standards of WPA3 certification with software updates. It’s possible that such devices will be limited, as companies will likely be more interested in selling new products with certification, than adding that functionality for free to existing hardware.

When will WPA3 be available?

The first WPA3 certified devices are expected to debut towards the end of 2018, with companies like Qualcomm claiming to already be in the process of making chips for smartphones and tablets that will give them full support for the new standard. It’s possible that we’ll see certain devices retroactively certified before then, but as of yet nothing like that has materialized.

At the very least the transition process of most wireless networking hardware to WPA3 will begin in 2018 and will no doubt continue into 2019. If you’re considering buying a new router or other wireless-networking hardware, it may well be worth waiting until later in the year to see which devices will support WPA3. Before long, WPA2 will be more of a legacy standard. WPA3 may also come to new hardware hand in hand with the 802.11ax wireless networking standard which debuted last year.

Product Review

Samsung's Galaxy S10 phones are its most refined yet. Be prepared to pay up

Samsung has unveiled its lineup for its most popular smartphones, and it includes the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus. The two flagship phones boast hole-punch cameras, fingerprint sensors embedded in the display, and beefier batteries.
Smart Home

Qualcomm goes all-in on Amazon Alexa voice control with a new development kit

Qualcomm is releasing an early valentine for smart home device manufacturers. The new development kit for its Wi-Fi networks integrates the Amazon Alexa Voice Service to enable voice control in more devices.
Computing

Wi-Fi helps connect all of our devices at high-speed, but what exactly is it?

What is Wi-Fi? It's a technology we all use everyday to connect all of our portable devices, but understanding how it works and how far it's come from its humble beginnings is another thing entirely.
Computing

What is Wi-Fi 6? Here's a look at the next evolution of the wireless standard

We're exploring the new naming convention for wireless standards, how it affects the devices you buy, and what the upcoming Wi-Fi generation is changing for the better.
Computing

Why limit yourself to one OS? Try one of these great virtual machine apps

Buying a new computer just because you want to utilize another operating system isn't necessary. Just use the best virtual machine applications to emulate one OS inside another, no matter what your platform or budget is.
Computing

Between Intel and AMD, these are the best gaming CPUs at every price

What are the best processors for gaming you can buy? You don't need to spend a fortune to get an amazing gaming CPU and now that AMD is competitive again, there are more choices than ever.
Computing

Decades-old Apple IIe computer found in dad’s attic, and it still works

A New York law professor went viral last weekend after he discovered an old Apple IIe computer sitting in his dad's attic. In a series of tweets, he showed that the vintage machine still works perfectly fine after 30 years.
Web

Rid yourself of website notification requests in just a few easy steps

Wish you knew how to block browser and website notifications? You can do it on a case by case basis, but that can become dull after the 10th site has asked for your approval. Here's how to block them outright.
Computing

Don't take your provider's word for it. Here's how to test your internet speed

If you're worried that you aren't getting the most from your internet package, speed tests are a great way to find out what your real connection is capable of. Here are the best internet speed tests available today.
Computing

Logitech’s G MX518 gaming mouse pairs classic looks with all-new tech

Logitech is relaunching one of its most popular classic gaming mice, the MX518. Now called the G MX518, it sports upgraded internals that give it a 16,000 DPI optical sensor and new and improved memory.
Computing

Microsoft could be planning a laptop with foldable screen, hints patent filing

Filed in late 2017 and titled "Bendable device with Display in Movable Connection With Body," the patent filing explains a new mechanism for laptops which can eliminate a hinge and allow the screen to fold shut from the inside,
Deals

From Chromebooks to MacBooks, here are the best laptop deals for February 2019

Whether you need a new laptop for school or work or you're just doing some post-holiday shopping, we've got you covered: These are the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.
Computing

Is AMD's Navi back on track for 2019? Here's everything you need to know

AMD's Navi graphics cards could be available as soon as July 2019 — as long as it's not delayed by stock problems. Billed as a successor to Polaris, Navi promises to deliver better performance to consoles, like Sony's PlayStation 5.
Deals

Here are the best Chromebook deals available in February 2019

Whether you want a compact laptop to enjoy some entertainment on the go, or you need a no-nonsense machine for school or work, we've smoked out the best cheap Chromebook deals -- from full-sized laptops to 2-in-1 convertibles -- that won't…