What Is WPA?
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What is WPA? Find out WPA description, different versions of WPA and how can you use them.
Wi-Fi Alliance launched in October 2003 the next generation in WLAN security - Wi-Fi Protected Access – WPA. The 802.11 equipment do not require a hardware upgrade to support Wi-Fi Protected Access. You only need to upgrade software and firmware, and it makes only minimal degradation in a network performance.
WPA was designed as WEP replacement and an answer to all WEP weaknesses. It uses Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) with Message Integrity Check (MIC). It also has mutual pre-shared key (PSK) authentication scheme using 802.11X/EAP.
What is WPA2 you could also ask? WI-Fi Alliance launched WPA2 in September 2004. It is certified interoperable version of the WPA. WPA2 beside PSK 802.1X/EAP authentication, use an advanced encryption mechanism. This new mechanism is Counter-Mode/CBC-MAC Protocol (CCMP) called Advanced Encryption Standard (AEP).
WPA and WPA2 have two certification modes:
There are four different versions of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED devices:
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|Enterprise mode || |
Authentication:802.1X/EAP Encryption: AES/CCMP
|Personal mode || |
Authentication:PSK Encryption: TKIP/MIC
Personal Mode - designed for home and office (SOHO) environment. You do not need RADIUS server.
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It uses manually entered PSK (pre-shared key or pass-phrase). The security level of your wireless network is based on this PSK. Use a mix of letters, numbers and non-alphanumerical characters. Personal mode uses methods of encryption as Enterprise – per-user, per-session, per-packet encryption with TKIP (WPA) or AES (WPA2).
Enterprise Mode - operates in managed mode with the authentication servers (Radius or IAS). With this mode you can meet the rigorous requirements of enterprise security.
Now when you know what is WPA, you need to learn how to use it in your network. You only need a firmware upgrade (on the access point or wireless router) and driver update (on client adapter). So, as you can see, both client and wireless router (or access point) need to support WPA2. This updates you can find on the vendor's websites. Maybe you will need to upgrade OS too.
With Windows 2000 you could have a problem. I have an Intel PRO wireless card and with Intel PROSet, I could use WPA2. McAfee's Wireless Home Network Security software can be used also for many wireless cards but it is not free.
For Windows XP you need an operating system update - KB917021. Also you need to upgrade a driver for your wireless card.
Windows Vista and Windows 7 support WPA2 without any specific update or patch.
Linux also supports WPA2. You could use tool called NetworkManager with GNOME and KDE to configure security and settings for your wireless networks.
Apple MAC OS X supports WPA2 with release 4.2 update to the AirPort software on all Airport Extreme enabled Macintoshes, the AirPort Extreme Base Station, and the AirPort Express.
All new mobile phones with Wi-Fi access support WPA/WPA2.