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

Stop stringing cords and replacing batteries with Ring's Spotlight Cam Solar

We like outdoor wireless cameras but dread the low-battery warning that inevitably comes with them. We tested the Ring Spotlight Cam Solar to see if it was the answer to our dead-battery prayers.
Computing

Netgear says exploit that led to stolen documents was fixed a long time ago

Hackers were able to steal classified military training and maintenance documents following a breach of a standard Netgear router that still maintained the default administrator password.
Mobile

Juice up your iPhone or Android phone with the best wireless chargers

We checked out the best wireless phone chargers to make tangles and uncooperative ports a thing of the past. Whether you have an iPhone or Android, find out which wireless charging pads are worth buying, and how their features compare.
Gaming

How to connect your phone to an Xbox One

Microsoft's Xbox app can't do it all, but it does allow you to access your profile information and launch media content directly from your mobile device. Check out our quick guide on how to connect your smartphone to an Xbox One.
Mobile

Apple fixes its battery drain issue with iOS 11.4.1 update

Apple's iOS 11 is the latest version of the company's mobile operating system, but it still has some issues to be worked out. We've searched the internet to find the biggest iOS 11 problems, along with some potential solutions.
Home Theater

These awesome A/V receivers will swarm you with surround sound at any budget

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to shopping for a receiver, so we assembled our favorites for 2018, at multiple price points and all loaded with features, from Dolby Atmos to 4K HDR, and much more.
Home Theater

Yamaha’s RX-S602 packs MusicCast Surround wireless tech into a slim package

Yamaha’s new RX-S602 A/V receiver takes the company’s MusicCast Surround technology, which lets you wireless connect your surround speakers, and fits it into a sleek, space-saving package.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Home Theater

Here’s how to mirror your smartphone or tablet onto your TV

A vast arsenal of devices exists to allow casting of anything on your mobile device to your TV. If you're wondering how to mirror content from your smartphone or tablet to a bigger screen, we've got an in-depth guide.
Mobile

Samsung's Galaxy X foldable smartphone reportedly set to launch early next year

Samsung has been showcasing bendable display technology for a few years now and a folding smartphone might finally become a reality. The Galaxy X may be the company's first example, and here's everything we know about it.
Home Theater

Need more contrast in your life? Here’s what you need to know about HDR TVs

So what is HDR TV? In a nutshell, it’s the best thing to happen to TV since the arrival of 4K. Here's everything you need to know about the technology, what it can do, and why it’s a must-have.
Home Theater

What is MHL, exactly, and how does it work with your TV?

There are more ways to mirror your smartphone or tablet to your TV than you might think. Check out our rundown of MHL for everything you need to know about the wired protocol and its myriad uses.
Home Theater

Still wondering why you should buy a smart TV? Here's what you should consider

If you've been living under a rock, you might wonder: What is a smart TV, anyway? Lucky for you stone-dwellers, we've put together a quick-hit guide to teach you everything you need to know about televisions with big brains.
Mobile

How to play Steam games on Android

With Steam Link, you can officially bypass your laptop or desktop computer and play games directly on your Android device using a number of different controllers. Here's what you need to know to get started.
Mobile

Apple stops offering free repairs for iPhones with grayed speaker buttons

Getting a new iPhone should be a pleasurable experience, but if you run into an issue, it can quickly become frustrating. Luckily, we’ve gathered a few potential solutions for any iPhone 7 problems you may be facing.
Computing

Lost your router? Here's how to find its IP address to help track it down

Changing the login information for your router isn't always easy, that's why so many have that little card on the back. But in order to use it, you need to know where to go. Here's how to find the IP address of your router.
Computing

Lost without Print Screen? Here's a few ways to take a screenshot on your Mac

Whether you prefer to use keyboard shortcuts or applications such as Grab and Preview, this guide will teach you how to take a screenshot on a Mac. Once you know how, you'll be able to capture images within seconds.
Computing

Chrome is still our favorite browser (but Firefox is catching up!)

Choosing a web browser for surfing the web can be tough with all the great options you have out there. Here we pit the latest versions of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Edge, and Vivaldi against one another to find the best browsers for most…
Photography

Brother’s new INKvestment Tank printer is made for people who hate buying ink cartridges

With a new ink cartridge design, Brother's new INKvestment Tank printer can run for up to a year before the cartridges need replacing -- ideal for users who want convenience and cost-savings.
Computing

Relive 1998 as live chat rooms roll out across Reddit in a limited beta

Reddit is slowly rolling out real-time chat rooms across a limited number of subreddits. Currently in beta, Reddit Chat went live in 2017 for a small group of around 7,000 users. Reddit is now expanding this service.
Computing

Intel’s 9th-generation processor could launch next month with 8 cores

Intel may be readying its ninth-generation processor for a launch that could happen as early as next month. Code-named Coffee Lake, these chips will bring eight-core processing power to the mainstream.
Computing

Here are 5 free alternatives to Photoshop for all your photo-editing needs

Photoshop is a capable program, but it's also expensive. Lucky for you, there are plenty of great alternatives out there that allow for a range of versatility, without requiring you to break into your bank account.
Music

Spotify vs. Pandora: Which music streaming service is better for you?

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.