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What is WPA3?

What is WPA3?
Photo by Domenico Loia

The virtual world is unsafe. It's dangerous, as you know too well - it seems that you hear about a massive data breach or ransomware attack every day.

That's because, as technology makes it easier for you to access the internet from everywhere and from countless devices, including smart appliances, hackers have more ways to access your data. Once they have remote access to your internet-connected smartphone, tablet or laptop, they can steal your ID, your credit card information and more.

There are security measures in place to help you, like the WiFi Alliance's WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access). That's simply a way to protect your internet communications with encryption and other systems to make it difficult for hackers to steal your data, like when you're using public Wi-Fi at a hotel, airport or coffee shop.

However, the current WPA2 standard is showing its age. The good news is, the WiFi Alliance is starting to roll out WPA3 this year.

Here's what you need to know about WPA3

The next-generation WPA, WPA3, has some major security enhancements over WPA2. In fact, WPA3 will give you the same level of security as some government agencies use to protect their data over Wi-Fi.

One of the major changes is individualized data encryption. WPA2 uses encryption to make it nearly impossible for hackers to access your data as it's being transferred over public Wi-Fi from your device to a router.

WPA3, on the other hand, gives you personalized encryption. Each connection has its own security key.

WPA3 uses 192-bit encryption and will likely use a 48-bit initialization vector. These are some of the highest levels of security that are used by the military, government and major corporations.

For you, a key benefit will be that you will not need to use super-complicated passwords to gain access to your devices. Although, of course, you should always use a password that's difficult for hackers to guess.

That's because of something called the dragonfly protocol or SAE (simultaneous authentication of equals). This protects you when you're wirelessly exchanging data.

Right now, with WPA2, there are four touch points. This includes your device, the Wi-Fi router you're accessing and the server you're connecting to, and its router.

WPA3 will greatly enhance that handshake - when data is being exchanged. You need passwords to touch all four points with WPA2, but that will be greatly beefed up with WPA3.

Seal of approval

You must see the WiFi Alliance's WPA3-certified seal of approval to know that a device is using the new security standard. It's like the Good Housekeeping seal of approval that you sometimes see on household products.

The current standard, WPA2, is adequate protection for now. You'll continue using that for many more years, as WPA3 rolls out.

How do you get WPA3?

The rollout of WPA3 is starting this year. That's the good news.  The not-so-good news is that it will take years for WPA3 to fully roll out. That's because manufacturers have to overhaul their manufacturing practices to comply with WPA3.

Simply put, that will take several years. However, you will soon start to see WPA3 devices, notably routers, that will help keep your Wi-Fi at home safe.

One mistake people make using public Wi-Fi

You've made this mistake - odds are, we all have! It's understandable, especially when you're at a coffee shop or fast-food restaurant with your laptop open to get work done.

You may not realize it, but you're doing one thing that makes it easy for hackers to steal your information. We've got step-by-step tips to make it tougher for hackers to hack you, whether you use a Windows laptop or a Mac.

Click here to find out how to stay safe when you're using Wi-Fi!

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