WEP, WPA, WPA2 and WPA3: I'll explain the differences

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Pau Monfort
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Is your wireless router as secure as you think? Here's how to find out what type of security protocol your Wi-Fi router uses. Did you know that your Wi-Fi connection uses one of four different types of security? Although they are all different, they are not all the same; hence, it is essential to know what type of security your Wi-Fi is using.

WEP, WPA, WPA2 and WPA3: I'll explain the differences

Let's see what the four types of Wi-Fi security consist of and which ones are the best to use. Wi-Fi security comes in four different types. They are not all equally secure, which is crucial to remember when checking your network protocol.

1. The WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) protocol

WEP is the oldest of the types of security, which entered the computing world in 1997. Due to its age, it is still prevalent in the modern era within older systems. Of all the protocols, WEP is considered the least secure.

2. The WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) protocol

WPA arrived as a successor to WEP due to flaws found within WEP. It has additional features over its big brother, such as the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP). This feature was a 128-bit dynamic key that was more difficult to enter than WEP's static, immutable key. It also introduced message integrity checking, which scanned all altered packets sent by hackers.

3. The Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) protocol

WPA2 is the successor to WPA and brings more features into the mix. It replaced TKIP with the Counter Mode Cipher Block Chaining Message Authentication Code Protocol (CCMP), which did a better job with data encryption.

WPA2 has been very successful and has held its position as the primary protocol since 2004. On March 13, 2006, the Wi-Fi Alliance declared that all future Wi-Fi-branded devices must use WPA2.

4. The Wi-Fi Protected Access 3 (WPA3) protocol

WPA3 is the newcomer and you can find it in routers manufactured since 2022. With this new format, WPA3 offers better encryption on public networks to prevent hackers from collecting information.

It is also easier to connect to a WPA3 router with a non-display device and has some additional features to protect against brute force attacks. It is likely that this will be the new WPA standard in the future.

Why Wi-Fi Security Types Matter

Knowing your Wi-Fi security protocol is essential for the security of your network. Older protocols are more vulnerable than newer ones and are much more likely to undergo a hacking attempt. There are two reasons why older versions are weaker than newer ones:

  1. Older protocols were designed in an earlier period before it was fully understood how hackers attacked routers. Most modern protocols have fixed these exploits, while older versions still have them lurking within their code.
  2. The longer a protocol exists, the more time hackers have to breach security. Since WEP has been around for a long time, hackers have found many exploits within it, making it an insecure protocol in the modern era.

What kind of security is my Wi-Fi?

Now you understand why it is essential to check the type of security key you use, what you should use and why the previous encryption keys are not that good. So, let's see how to find out what type of security protocol your WiFi router uses.

How to find your type of Wi-Fi security in Windows 10

On Windows 10, find the icon of the Wifi connection in the system tray. Click on it, then click Property under the current Wi-Fi connection. Scroll down and look for Wi-Fi details in Property. Under that, look for Security type, which shows your Wi-Fi protocol.

How to find your type of Wi-Fi security in macOS

Checking the type of Wi-Fi security on macOS is very simple. Press and hold the Option key and click Wi-Fi icon in the toolbar. It will show the details of your network, including the type of security you are in.

How to find your type of Wi-Fi security in Android

To check on an Android phone, go to Settings , then open the categoria Wi-Fi . Select the router you are connected to and view its details. It will indicate the type of security of your connection. Note that the path of this screen may vary depending on your device.

How to find your type of Wi-Fi security on iPhone

Unfortunately, there is no way in iOS to check your Wi-Fi security. If you want to check the security of your Wi-Fi, your best bet is to use a computer or access the router via your phone.

What to do next with your Wi-Fi security

Once you've found your Wi-Fi security type, how do you use this information to decide what to do next? We analyze your ideal action plan for each protocol.

What to do if your security type is WPA3

If your connection uses WPA3, congratulations. You're using the best Wi-Fi protocols, and as a result, there's no need to upgrade. It is also very likely that you are using modern hardware so that an update can wait at least a few more years.

What to do if your security type is WPA2

WPA2 is a secure protocol, so you don't have to worry about upgrading your hardware. However, if you are interested in staying up to date, the current generation of WPA3 compatible routers are worth looking at. If you liked the sound of the features we've listed under the WPA3 protocol, you should consider upgrading to a router that supports it.

What to do if the security type is WEP or WPA

If your network is WEP or WPA (with no number after it), you are at risk of a cyber attack. Consequently, we recommend that you upgrade to a WPA2 or WPA3 compatible router to protect yourself.

It is also worth checking if the router has been set to use a lower security type. Read the manual of your current router and check if you can activate / deactivate the security type. If you can't, it's worth investing in a new router.

Thankfully, even the cheapest models available today support WPA2 due to the Wi-Fi Alliance mandating it. Additionally, you can ensure a quality product by looking for the best brands when buying a modem.

The difference between "personal" and "corporate" WPA.

If your protocol is WPA, you may have noticed that it was labeled "Personal" or "Enterprise". “Personal” is for home use and “Enterprise” has some additional security features to make it suitable for sensitive business use. The personal level is fine for everyday use, so don't worry if your home router doesn't use enterprise-grade security.

Keep your Wi-Fi network safe

If you're worried about hackers getting into your network, it's a good idea to use the best possible security protocol. WPA3 and WPA2 users shouldn't worry, while WPA and WEP users should consider upgrading.

Keeping your Wi-Fi network safe can be daunting. Thankfully, you can make it a little less stressful by doing a few simple ways to secure your router.

Further Reading:

  • What is a WPA2 password? I'll explain it to you
  • 5 tips for securing your Wifi network
  • What is Samsung Galaxy S10 reverse wireless charging and how does it work?
  • How to prevent others from using my WiFi
  • How to hide Wifi from your neighbors

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