WEP vs WPA vs WPA2 vs WPA3 – WiFi Security Protocols

WEP vs WPA vs WPA2 vs WPA3 – WiFi Security Protocols. In this post, we list the most common Wi-Fi Security Protocols – WEP, WPA, WPA2, and WPA3 in detail. We have compared them to make it easier for you to understand their roles and purpose.

WiFi security is a very important aspect of a network. Today, almost everyone uses Wifi and the internet to get their work done. Importantly, an unsecure network increases the risk of hacking or theft. In fact, hackers are always on a move to exploit flaws in security layers and access a user’s private data.

Hence, it is vital to understand the different WiFi security protocols and how they work. So, there are many WiFi security protocols available, but most of them are not in use and not secure anymore.

Undoubtedly, WiFi Security Protocols are a set of standards that help provide security to wireless networks. The WiFi Security Protocols have been in use since 1999. Over the past years, many new versions have come into effect.

Of course, WiFi security protocol ensures that the network is safe from intruders and hackers.

The use of WiFi Security Protocols is essential for it offers security to wireless networks. On balance, these protocols also ensure that the data that is being transmitted is secure over those networks. Additionally, no third party can intercept your data. It also makes sure that the data is accessible only by users who have the password or authority to access it.

Shall we continue with the article WEP vs WPA vs WPA2 vs WPA3 – WiFi Security Protocols.

What is WEP?

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Wire Equivalent Privacy, or WEP, is a part of the IEEE 802.11 standard. In 1999, the WEP design came into practice to make the traffic sent over wireless networks safer. An the whole, also to address the problem of stealing wireless data by eavesdroppers.

So that, the wired equivalent privacy is the first security protocol that secures the transmissions over a wireless network. That is, to provide confidentiality of data over unencrypted wireless networks.

The wired equivalent privacy protocol also enhances security in wireless networks by encrypting data. Further, it helps prevents unauthorized users to access the wireless network.

To clarify, WEP operates at the data link and physical layers of the OSI model but does not offer end to end security. To point out, it has a few more technical shortcomings that significantly limited its utility.

With WEP, you need to know the password in order to connect to the network. This type of security protocol is not very effective against hacking attacks because it is easy to crack.

Further, WEP does not provide any protection against replay attacks. As a result, an intruder can capture packets from an encrypted transmission and then retransmit them later. Thus, making it easier for intruders to eavesdrop on communications even with encryption. Hence, it is not a secure solution as desired.

Later, WPA, which was more secure, replaced Wire Equivalent Privacy (WEP).

What is WPA?

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WPA is the security certificate standard developed by the WiFi Alliance in 2003 for protecting wireless computer networks. Wireless computer networks protected by WPA have a shared pre set key, and they use a TKIP protocol. It also supports 256-bit encryption technology.

When a device connects successfully to a WiFi protected access network, keys are generated. Further, it includes message integrity check, mechanisms that help reduce IV reuse, automatic broadcast of updated keys, and more.

 What’s more, WEP encrypts data exchanged between only the device and the access point. But, WPA is a more advanced version of WEP. Without doubt, WPA is a trade off made to enhance WEP without requiring individuals to purchase new routers and computer component.

WPA has been around since 2003 and provides better protection than WEP because it uses a stronger encryption algorithm. The main drawback of this protocol is that it requires more computing power on the router side. In simple terms, it may not be as fast as some other protocols for data rates under 54Mbps.

That is, WPA, which stands for WiFi Protected Access, is defined as the networking security standard. It is available for both enterprise users and for personal use. WPA-EAP, i.e., WPA Extensible Authentication Protocol designed for enterprise use supports 802.1x authentication. Whereas, WPA-PSK, i.e., WPA Pre Shared Key designed for personal use involves the use of pre shared keys for better management and quick implementations.

What is WPA2?

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Next solution is WPA2. The successor to WPA released in 2004. Instead of using RC4 and TKIP protocol, the new version uses a few stronger encryption and authentication techniques. Uses Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and Counter Mode with Cipher Block Chaining Message Authentication Code Protocol (CCMP) mechanisms to keep the transmissions secure and safe.

The CCMP mechanism helps protect the confidentiality of the data. It ensures that only authorized network users can access or receive the data. In case, a device fails to support the CCMP mechanism, WPA2 uses the TKIP protocol.

For using Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) mechanism, you require more computing power as it comprises three symmetric block ciphers. WPA 2 also supports the pre authentication feature that helps client move from one AP to another without any reauthentication.

Well, WPA2 is also a trusted and common security measure used for protecting the wireless Internet. Like the older WPA version, WPA 2 is also available for enterprise and personal use.

In short, WiFi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) is a security protocol that provides wireless network protection by utilizing a four way handshake. This handshake generates encryption keys that keep the data safe and secure.

What is WPA3?

Image source: Huawei Forum

Then, we have WPA3. The most recent and most secure wireless security standard. Came into effect in 2018 by WiFi Alliance to prevent eavesdropping and forging. Just like the old version, it relies on the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) mechanism for encryption.

For enterprise users, it has 192 bit security encryption and a 128 bit cryptographic suite for personal use. Also, to heighten the security of corporate, financial, and governmental data, it supports a 48 bit IV key.

The new protocol has some major changes over its predecessor. One of them is that it uses Simultaneous Authentication of Equals (SAE) to secure data transmission between devices on a WiFi network.

The Simultaneous Authentication of Equals (SAE) helps eliminate the repetitive use of encryption keys and limits on site authentication attempts. As a result, any unauthorized user who exceeds the limit of password guesses will be flagged. It also supports the forward secrecy feature.

Subsequently, WPA3 also has improved encryption methods and offers protection against offline attacks like KRACKs. It also provides protection against brute force attacks on the network. This protocol uses AES encryption, which is one of the strongest currently in use for encryption purposes.

Still, WPA3 is the latest security protocol that provides better protection for WiFi connections by utilizing a new handshake. This handshake generates stronger encryption keys.

Compared to previous versions, WPA3 enables more robust authentication for highly sensitive data. Offers better security for public networks like the ones in coffee shops or hotels.

WEP vs WPA vs WPA2 vs WPA3 - Comparison Table

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All, WEP, WPA, WPA2, and WPA3 are the most common WiFi security protocols great at securing wireless networks. Below we have compared the four popular WiFi security protocols based on various factors. WPA3 is the recent wireless security protocol released in 2018 with advanced features.

Parameters WEP WPA WPA2 WPA3
Date of Release
Supported Encryption Methods
WEP uses RC4 (Rivest Cipher 4) stream cipher for encrypting data.
WPA uses Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) as well as RC4 for encryption
WPA2 uses Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and Counter Mode with Cipher Block Chaining Message Authentication Code Protocol (CCMP) mechanisms for encryption
WPA3 relies on Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) mechanism for encryption
WEP offers WPE-Open and WPE-shared authentication
WPA offers Pre-Shared Keys and 802.1x authentication with EAP variant
WPA2 offers Pre-Shared Keys and 802.1x authentication with EAP variant
WPA3 offers Simultaneous Authentication of Equals (SAE) and 802.1x authentication with EAP variant
Key Management
Not available
WPA supports a cryptographic four-way handshake mechanism
WPA2 supports a cryptographic four-way handshake mechanism
WPA3 supports Simultaneous Authentication of Equals (SAE) handshake mechanism
Cipher Type Supported
WEP uses stream cipher
WPA uses stream cipher
WPA2 uses block cipher
WPA3 uses block cipher
Session Key size
A 40-bit key
A 128-bit key
A 128-bit key
128-bit key for personal use and 192-bit key for enterprise use
Data Integrity
Offers CRC-32
Offers message integrity check
Supports CBC-MAC
Offers secure hash algorithm

WEP vs WPA vs WPA2 vs WPA3 - Key Differences

Release Date

  • WEP protocol was released in 1999.
  • WPA also called WiFi Protected Access was released in 2003
  • WPA2 standard was ratified by IEEE in 2004
  • WPA3 was released in 2018

Supported Authentication

  • WPA uses pre-shared key and 802.1x authentication, which are more secure than 64-bit and 128-bit keys used by WEP.
  • WPA2 is currently the most secure standard utilizing AES and a pre-shared key for authentication.
  • WPA3 uses Simultaneous Authentication of Equals (SAE) to provide stronger defenses against password guessing.

Supported Encryption

  • WEP encrypts traffic using RC4 stream cypher.
  • WPA uses RC4 but adds longer 256-bit keys to encrypt data.
  • WPA2 replaces RC4 and TKIP with CCMP and AES algorithm for stronger encryption.
  • WPA3 uses Advanced Encryption Standard mechanism for encryption.

Key Management

  • WEP has not got any features.
  • WPA2 also uses four way handshake mechanism.
  • WPA3 uses Simultaneous Auhtentication of Equals handshake mechanism.

Supported Cipher Type

  • WEP and WPA uses stream cipher while WPA2 and WPA3 uses block cipher type.

Session Key Size

  • WEP uses a shared secret key, which is 40 bits in length.
  • WPA and WPA2 uses 128 bit session key.
  • WPA3 uses 128 bit for personal use and 192 bit for enterprise use.

Thank you for reading WEP vs WPA vs WPA2 vs WPA3 – WiFi Security Protocols. We will conclude.

WEP vs WPA vs WPA2 vs WPA3 - WiFi Security Protocols Conclusion

Summing up, WiFi Security Protocols are a set of rules and guidelines that help protect your WiFi network from unauthorized access. It is important to use the right protocols for your WiFi network. Secure protocols add more protection to the data and crucial information.

Lastly, WEP stands for Wired Equivalent Privacy. It is a security protocol that came into effect in the 1980s to provide privacy for wired networks. It is not secure and hackers can crack it within minutes with access to a wireless network card driver.

Avatar for Hitesh Jethva
Hitesh Jethva

I am a fan of open source technology and have more than 10 years of experience working with Linux and Open Source technologies. I am one of the Linux technical writers for Cloud Infrastructure Services.

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