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Crash Course: The ABCs of WPA2 Security

Looking for more secure Wi-Fi? WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2) gives wireless networks both confidentiality and data integrity, two terms not previously associated with Wi-Fi.

Security, of course, has long been the trade-off with Wi-Fi. Early wireless networks leaned heavily on VPNs to provide Layer 3 security, which--aside from the additional overhead of encapsulation and the challenges of roaming, quality of service, client support and scalability--left the IP network vulnerable to attacks. The Layer 2-based WPA2 better protects the network.



But WPA2 alone can't provide enterprise security: Combining WPA2 with the IEEE 802.1X port-based authentication protocol for access control should eliminate most security worries. This won't protect you from rogues, denial-of-service attacks or interference, but it will ensure secure wireless communication.

The Wi-Fi Alliance's WPA2 security spec is a major improvement over WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy), the security standard in IEEE's original 802.11 (for more on WEP, see "WEP: Old-School Security for Wi-Fi" at ). WEP was susceptible to attacks and poorly implemented by vendors, and never took off in the enterprise. WEP's weaknesses and the ease with which they've been exploited led to the 802.11i standard, which was approved and published in 2004. The Wi-Fi Alliance created WPA, a subset of the draft version 802.11i, and later, WPA2, which provided stronger security than the first version of WPA.

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