What Is WPA3? More Secure Wi-Fi

Jul 3, 2018 · 4 min read
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WPA stands for Wi-Fi Protected Access, and it’s a series of security protocols designed to safeguard your Wi-Fi traffic. Here’s what that means for your next binge-watch or video chat.

By Whitson Gordon

The next generation of Wi-Fi security is almost here, and it’s bringing a host of new features to keep your data safe — both at home and on public networks.

The Wi-Fi Alliance gave us a peek at WPA3 earlier this year at CES, but this week it officially announced the finalized details. Even though you won’t be able to start using it right away, it’s a big step for wireless security, and good news for laptop and smartphone users everywhere.

What Is WPA?

WPA stands for Wi-Fi Protected Access, and it’s a series of security protocols designed to safeguard your Wi-Fi traffic. When you connect to a Wi-Fi network and type in a password, WPA governs the “handshake” that takes place between your device and the router, and the encryption that protects your data. There’s a good chance your home network uses WPA2, the current version of this protocol.

WPA2 has been around since 2004, and while it greatly improved upon its predecessors, WEP and WPA, it’s not perfect (no computer security is). Now, over a decade later, WPA3 is finally on its way with a bunch of new improvements.

What’s New in WPA3?

WPA3 enhances Wi-Fi in the following ways:

WPA3 also includes stronger encryption for enterprise Wi-Fi, though most home users won’t have to worry about that. In fact, home users won’t have to worry about much at all — connecting to a WPA3-secured network is exactly like connecting to any other password-protected Wi-Fi network. You’ll just need to make sure your home router supports WPA3 and has it turned on.

When Will I Be Able to Use WPA3?

Manufacturers are already hard at work getting upcoming hardware certified for WPA3, but don’t expect to be using it next week. New products with WPA3 support will begin appearing in the coming year, but the Wi-Fi alliance doesn’t predict widespread adoption until late 2019.

Furthermore, it’s unclear how many older devices will get software updates to support WPA3. Some may, but there’s a good chance you’ll need a new router to use WPA3 — though with 802.11ax on the horizon, you’ll probably want a new router anyway for the speed and signal improvements wireless AX provides.

Even then, though, your laptop, smartphone, and other devices will need to be WPA3-capable in order to take advantage of the new security features, so it’ll likely be a gradual change. Thankfully, the Wi-Fi Alliance will still support WPA2 for a while, and WPA3 will be backwards compatible with WPA2 devices in the meantime. So even if you have old devices, you’ll still be able to connect to newer WPA3 routers while you wait to upgrade all your gear.

Read More: “7 Huge Hacks That Might Make You Think Twice About Cryptocurrency

Originally published at www.pcmag.com.

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