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What Is WPA?

written by: Lashan Clarke•edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 7/29/2010

This article will discuss the differences WPA and WEP, and give a summary of network authentication and WPA2 certification.

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    An Introduction to WPA

    WPA stands for Wi-Fi Protected Access and it was first used as early as 1993 after the 802.11 taskforce concluded that WEP was not secure. It is used to describe a certification program which ensures that the network complies with the standard of security set out by the Wi-Fi Alliance. The difference between the use of WEP and WPA is that WPA uses a temporary key integrity protocol (TKIP) that was used to encrypt wireless data sent along the network. However, after research was done, it was discovered that TKIP is prone to spoofing and then WPA2 was created. TKIP was seen as an improvement over WEP because it used stronger features such as re-keying and a message integrity check.

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    WPA2 & Certification

    WPA2 certification is thought to be advanced security for Wi-Fi. WPA2 certification adheres to the standards set out in the 802.11i and it uses the Computer Mode with Cipher Block Chaining Message Authentication Code (CCMP) to encrypt data sent over a wireless network.

    It was introduced in 2004 and is used as the certification for all Wi-Fi listed devices. There are two types of authentication in WPA called pre-shared and shared. Shared key authentication is used mainly on a larger scale, whereas pre-shared is reserved for home use. It uses a 256-bit key for data encryption and it does not stringently rely on the 802.11 server to authenticate. dhfka.

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    Why WPA Over WEP?

    The best thing about using WPA over WEP is this greater level of protection is not only using it for networks setup for home computer use, but more importantly for the expanding use of Wi-Fi hotspots for public use. Using WPA ensures a least the minimum compliance to wireless security is met.

    Thus WPA is considered to be an improvement on WEP because it has a centralized server to authenticate the connection, and it also relies on Extensible Authentication Protocols (EAP). However, a lot of Wi-Fi points still use a mix of WEP and WPA to support people who are using WEP. As a result, there is less security for the users who are in mixed WEP/WPA mode as WEP security over-rides. Instead WPA is preferred for home use that is not in mixed mode, because it provides a greater level of protection.