WEP, WPA and WPA2. Wich one should you use for your wifi network?

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Most people just turn on their router and never actually configure it or even change the default password. This can be a very bad lack of security and you should at least set the correct mode on your wifi and change the password to a more strong one.

Making your wifi network strong

If you don’t know how to set up your router just access it’s ip in the browser. Usually it’s 192.168.0.1 but if it’s not you can check your default gateway ip by typing ipconfig on the command line (for windows).

The default user and password is something like admin admin. You should also change this for security purposes. If your router default user/pass isn’t admin/admin just google it, its usually easy to find the default credentials for any router.

Now, let’s look at wifi security protocols

What is WEP?

Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) is the most widely used Wi-Fi security protocol in the world. This is a function of age, backwards compatibility, and the fact that it appears first in the protocol selection menus in many router control panels.

WEP was ratified as a Wi-Fi security standard in September of 1999. The first versions of WEP weren’t particularly strong, even for the time they were released, because U.S. restrictions on the export of various cryptographic technology led to manufacturers restricting their devices to only 64-bit encryption. When the restrictions were lifted, it was increased to 128-bit. Despite the introduction of 256-bit WEP, 128-bit remains one of the most common implementations.

Despite revisions to the protocol and an increased key size, over time numerous security flaws were discovered in the WEP standard. As computing power increased, it became easier and easier to exploit those flaws. As early as 2001, proof-of-concept exploits were floating around, and by 2005, the FBI gave a public demonstration (in an effort to increase awareness of WEP’s weaknesses) where they cracked WEP passwords in minutes using freely available software.

Despite various improvements, work-arounds, and other attempts to shore up the WEP system, it remains highly vulnerable. Systems that rely on WEP should be upgraded or, if security upgrades are not an option, replaced. The Wi-Fi Alliance officially retired WEP in 2004.

What is WPA?

Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) was the Wi-Fi Alliance’s direct response and replacement to the increasingly apparent vulnerabilities of the WEP standard. WPA was formally adopted in 2003, a year before WEP was officially retired. The most common WPA configuration is WPA-PSK (Pre-Shared Key). The keys used by WPA are 256-bit, a significant increase over the 64-bit and 128-bit keys used in the WEP system.

Some of the significant changes implemented with WPA included message integrity checks (to determine if an attacker had captured or altered packets passed between the access point and client) and the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP). TKIP employs a per-packet key system that was radically more secure than the fixed key system used by WEP. The TKIP encryption standard was later superseded by Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).

Despite what a significant improvement WPA was over WEP, the ghost of WEP haunted WPA. TKIP, a core component of WPA,  was designed to be easily rolled out via firmware upgrades onto existing WEP-enabled devices. As such, it had to recycle certain elements used in the WEP system which, ultimately, were also exploited.

WPA, like its predecessor WEP, has been shown via both proof-of-concept and applied public demonstrations to be vulnerable to intrusion. Interestingly, the process by which WPA is usually breached is not a direct attack on the WPA protocol (although such attacks have been successfully demonstrated), but by attacks on a supplementary system that was rolled out with WPA—Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS)—which was designed to make it easy to link devices to modern access points.

What is WPA2?

WPA has, as of 2006, been officially superseded by WPA2. One of the most significant changes between WPA and WPA2 is the mandatory use of AES algorithms and the introduction of CCMP (Counter Cipher Mode with Block Chaining Message Authentication Code Protocol) as a replacement for TKIP. However, TKIP is still preserved in WPA2 as a fallback system and for interoperability with WPA.

Currently, the primary security vulnerability to the actual WPA2 system is an obscure one (and requires the attacker to already have access to the secured Wi-Fi network in order to gain access to certain keys and then perpetuate an attack against other devices on the network). As such, the security implications of the known WPA2 vulnerabilities are limited almost entirely to enterprise level networks and deserve little to no practical consideration in regard to home network security.

Unfortunately, the same vulnerability that is the biggest hole in the WPA armor—the attack vector through the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS)—remains in modern WPA2-capable access points. Although breaking into a WPA/WPA2 secured network using this vulnerability requires anywhere from 2-14 hours of sustained effort with a modern computer, it is still a legitimate security concern. WPS should be disabled and, if possible, the firmware of the access point should be flashed to a distribution that doesn’t even support WPS so the attack vector is entirely removed.

How long should my password be?

Cracking a wifi password can be a very easy task if it’s short, has common words or it’s easily guessable.

You should have a wifi password of at least 14 random characters, including special chars. I’ve personally cracked passwords with 18 characters because they contained patterns.

There’s no excuse for not having this type of password because you don’t actually have to remember it, write a random password like a3$_hSD443!2wS_L on a piece of paper, connect all your devices and that’s it! Even if you somehow loose the password you can allways reset it by pressing the reset button on the router.

Wrapping it up

Change your router’s security protocol to the strongest possible: WPA2, if not available, WPA. If neither available i suggest getting a new router.

Change default password and change password for the router access.

You should now be safe!