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What is a WPA2 Password

by Cybergal | Last Updated | June 6, 2022
Cyber Dictionary

Did you know that 79% of American home W-Fi networks use weak passwords? Cybersecurity multinational company Avast’s research indicates so. Weak passwords make home Wi-Fi networks vulnerable to cyber attacks. 

What is WPA2 Introduction

According to Avast’s research, the great majority of home routers in the United States are insecure. Cybercriminals can quickly obtain an individual’s sensitive information if a router isn’t properly secured. They may include personal information, financial information, usernames and passwords, photographs, and browser history.

Can a Hacker Crack Your Wireless Network Security?

You might be amazed at how simple it is nowadays to get into your home Wi-Fi network if you have a weak password. A hacker can rent a cloud computer for relatively little money, and in most cases guess your network’s password in mere minutes via a brute force attack.  

In many cases your router might have been hacked and you are completely unaware of it. Hackers can compromise the safety of your home Wi-Fi by using a technique known as DNS (Domain Name Server) hijacking, potentially causing you great harm. They can send your traffic to a website they control, tricking you to unintentionally give criminals your credit card number or Facebook login details.

How Hackers Crack Wifi Passwords

For the more tech savvy, you can find more detailed methods of how your wireless network security can be cracked at How-To Geek.

Thankfully, there are secure ways you can protect your wireless home network. One of the top methods it use WPA2 passwords.

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What is a WPA2 Password?

Your Wi-Fi password is the network security pass you use to connect to your home network. This password is important because it protects your system from intruders.

WPA2 is a member of the Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) protocol for network safety. Before we can fully understand what a WPA2 password is, let’s digress a bit on how wireless security standards evolved.

WEP or Wired Equivalent Privacy

WEP is an old type of wireless network key introduced in 1977. It encrypts data between your router and computer using a 40-bit key.

WEP’s primary purpose was to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks, which it accomplished during its time. However, despite updates to the protocol and increased key size, new vulnerabilities were discovered in the WEP standard over time making it problematic.

Within minutes, the encryption can be broken, exposing your network to the intruder. WEP is no longer supported by most current access points and routers. WEP keys should no longer be used.

WPA or WiFi Protected Access

The increasing vulnerabilities of the WEP standard necessitated a replacement of the WEP protocol. In 2003, WPA was created with 256-bit keys. 

Despite WPA’s significant improvement over WEP, the ghost of WEP haunted WPA. Like its predecessor WEP, WPA was still vulnerable to intrusions. 

Surprisingly, the most common method of WPA breach is not a direct attack on the protocol itself. Typically attackers targeted a WPA-enabled supplementary system. When WPA was rolled out it retained some elements of WEP that were still open to attack. This gave birth to WPA2, which we’ll discuss more extensively later in the article.

So, what is a WPA2 password?

WPA2 was introduced in 2004 to replace WPA with all its vulnerabilities. It operates in two modes: the personal mode and the enterprise mode.

A WPA2 password uses Counter Mode Cipher Block Chaining Message Authentication Code Protocol (CCMP)

A WPA2 password can be between eight and 63 characters with a random mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. A good WPA2 password is a combination of random and uncommon character sequence to prevent dictionary attacks. A good tip in creating a strong WPA2 password is to use a unique combination that no human has ever used before.

A WPA2 password uses the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) algorithm based on the CCMP protocol. AES is a stronger encryption method that ensures message authenticity and integrity. CCMP is more secure and reliable than WPA’s initial Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP), making pattern detection more difficult.

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WPA3 or Wi-Fi Protected Access 3

WPA3 is the third generation in the WPA family introduced in 2018. It came with new features for both personal and enterprise use, including:

WPA3 is starting to emerge as a standard protocol for newer devices.

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How Does WPA2 Work?

WPA2 operates in two modes: the personal mode and the enterprise mode.

Personal vs Enterprise WPA2

Personal mode or WPA2-PSK

WPA2-PSK offers an optional feature called pre-shared key. It requires a shared password for access and is not suitable for use in a business setting. It’s most commonly used in home networks, where the password is set in the router’s access point. 

To connect to the wireless network, all client devices must use the same password. The encryption passphrase is stored on the individual endpoint devices and can be recovered quickly.

One of its downsides is that if a user leaves the network or if the passphrase is compromised in any way, the passphrase must be changed individually on all access points and all attaching devices.

Enterprise mode or WPA2-EAP

The enterprise mode offers multiple options for Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP) which frequently used in wireless networks. EAP is an authentication framework, not an authentication method. Common use of the EAP framework are password-based authentication and certificate-based authentication, among others. 

While WPA2 is a secure protocol, key reinstallation attacks are still possible (KRACK). KRACK exploits a flaw in WPA2’s four-way handshake protocol. An attacker might impersonate a cloned network and force the user to join the malicious network. This allows the hacker to decrypt a little amount of data, which can then be combined to crack the encryption key.

One methods to minimize this from happening is to ensure client devices are are patched and always kept up to date. 

How to Know the Security Type of Your Wi-Fi

Knowing your Wi-Fi security type is critical for the safety of your network. Older protocols are more vulnerable to hacking than modern ones, making them more likely to be targeted.

Earlier protocols were designed before it was completely understood how hackers attacked routers. These exploits have been patched in more modern protocols, which are now considered to provide the best Wi-Fi security.

On Windows 10

On a Mac

In Android

On an iPhone

You may check your Wi-Fi safety protocol using a computing device or by logging into the router with your phone.

Each router is unique, so you may need to refer to the documentation that comes with it. You could also call your Internet service provider that installed the router.

How Do You Create A WPA2 Wi-Fi Password?

To set up a WPA2 password for Wi-Fi, follow the steps below:

Tips on How to Enhance Wi-Fi Security

It’s not enough that you have set up your WPA2 password. WPA2 security is a continuing process that needs your regular attention. Here are ways to enhance your home wireless security:

1. Change all default credentials

This includes usernames and passwords provided by the manufacturer.

2. Patch and update your device

To improve WPA2 security, update the operating system on all client devices on the network. This assures that the most recent updates for known vulnerabilities, such as KRACK, have been applied.

3. Use strong passwords

A WPA2 password can range from eight to 63 characters. Longer is better and a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols adds to the complexity. Avoid using single dictionary words and instead create memorable passphrases or pass sentences.

Properly configure your Wifi Security

4. Upgrade your router

Check your router for any available updates on a regular basis. Also, if your router’s manufacturer stops supporting it and the device is discontinued, you should consider replacing it. Automatic upgrades are available in modern Wi-Fi solutions such as Google Wi-Fi.

5. Turn off remote access to your router

Ideally, you should log into the router from inside your own network, such as when you’re at home. Remote administration opens your login screen to the world. If cyber criminals find it on the Internet, they could brute force your login credentials and potentially access your router.

They would then have complete access to your Internet connection from the outside. That would be a real bad problem to have!!

Our final thoughts. WPA2 is by far the safest security protocol for wireless home networks. Even if you’ve chosen this security protocol, it doesn’t mean that you can now sit back and relax. It’s important that you keep your router and connected devices safe with constant updates.

Keep up with the trends and consider upgrading your Wi-Fi devices to stay stage.

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