Wireless networks are a premier convenience these days and widely used at both homes and offices. However, they also possess some inherent risks, so security just cannot be undermined. If the network is hacked or unauthorized access is granted, the intruder won’t just be able to spy, but can even disrupt overall network activity. What’s involved and what can you do to maximize security? Let’s take a look at the basics of wireless network security.
The Technological Standards
The Institute of Electronics and Engineers (IEEE) developed a standard protocol for LANs and WLANs, referred to as the Wireless Equivalent Privacy (WEP), which ensures the following:
Confidentiality – Strangers are not allowed to eavesdrop on the network.
Integrity – Protected wireless network ensure a greater chance of keeping the transmitted and received data intact.
Trust – Only authorized access is granted, so communications are more trustable.
A lot of security experts believed that WEP wasn’t enough to prevent intruders from accessing the network. So, the standard was revised and WEP2 was released, which increased its complexity, but a trusted level of security still could not be achieved. In its essence, WEP2 locks the network and prevents access, unless a password is provided. This is still better than no security at all but doesn’t really reduce risks of a compromise. As such, other alternatives have been defined.
Wi-Fi Protected Access or WPA provides a higher level of security than WEP protocol. Generally, devices support several variants of this technology. WPA can be classified into two main types: WPA – Personal, or WPA – Pre Shared Key abbreviated as WPA – PSK, which is for home networks, whereas WPA – Enterprise is for corporate networks.
Wi-Fi Protected Setup or WPS is a relatively new security method that allows the user to add new devices to the network through a simple push button. This button can either be featured physically on the router or the network administration software. Once the button is pushed, a PIN is provided through the device to enable connectivity. The basic idea was that physical access to the button would result in more secure authentication.
802.1X or Radius is an authentication tool, which was primarily released for huge enterprise networks with resources available for setting up and maintaining the protocol. A network administrator configures the required authentication, which works in parallel to the enterprise versions of WPA and WPA2 standards.
The Three Security Actions
Wireless networks can be secured through three basic actions.
- Discourage unauthorized users from accessing the network – Only allow authorized personnel to access the networks by using unique user IDs and passwords. If you implement access control, you can define the components or devices that can be accessed by a specific individual.
- Prevent unauthorized and unofficial connections by eliminating rogue access points – Rogue access points are usually installed by employees for convenient access. Check for these and prevent access because they are easy to hack.
- Protect transmitted and received data through encryption – Encryption prevents data from being read by an unauthorized user.