WPA3 Definition & Meaning

WPA3 is the third installment of the Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) standard, offered by the Wi-Fi Alliance to secure Wi-Fi connections and devices that use them. Introduced in 2018, WPA3 heavily increased the use of encryption to protect users’ connections to public Wi-Fi networks.

WPA2 (WPA3’s precursor) was susceptible to attacks wherein a hacker repeatedly guessed a password during the four-way handshake authentication process. WPA3 aimed to address WPA2 flaws by encrypting device connections to public Wi-Fi networks.

One primary feature of WPA3 was Wi-Fi Easy Connect, which offers asymmetric cryptography and simpler configuration. Users scan a QR code to connect to Wi-Fi rather than inputting a password. One main device per network becomes the configuration point and must be able to scan the QR code. Although it wasn’t technically part of WPA3, Wi-Fi Enhanced Open was introduced around the same time, offering encryption for public Wi-Fi networks. Opportunistic Wireless Encryption (OWE) encrypts an open network rather than using a pre-shared key (PSK), which are typically symmetric.

Weaknesses of WPA3

WPA2’s main weaknesses included allowing hackers to guess users’ passwords through brute force attacks on accounts that tried to connect to public Wi-Fi networks. WPA3 addresses these flaws by making it more difficult for hackers to attack and guess users’ passwords or freely observe their internet usage. It also implemented a program called Dragonfly, used to avoid the password-guessing problem, but in 2019 Dragonfly was revealed to be susceptible to similar attacks.

Devices can also create fake wireless networks by copying a legitimate Wi-Fi network name and pasting it into their phone’s name, tricking users into selecting that as their network. WPA3 cannot stop these “evil twin” attacks, either.

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