Wi-Fi devices have been using the same security protocol for over a decade. But today, that’ll begin to change: the Wi-Fi Alliance, which oversees adoption of the Wi-Fi standard, is beginning to certify products that support WPA3, the successor to the WPA2 security protocol that’s been in use since 2004.
WPA stands for Wi-Fi Protected Access. Typically, a wireless network will be using WPA2, which is "version 2" of the Wi-Fi Protected Access standard. There are previous versions including WPA1 and WEP, but those protocols are no longer secure, and you should not use these predecessors to secure your network. WPA2 governs what happens when you connect to a closed Wi-Fi network with a password and it is essentially the digital “handshake” that allows the device to communicate securely preventing any outside intrusions.
The new WPA3 protocol provides several additional protections for devices connected over Wi-Fi. One big improvement makes it harder for hackers to crack your password by a brute-force attack (guessing it over and over), and another puts a limit on what data hackers can see even once they’ve uncovered the password. Nothing will change as far as users see it; you’ll still just type in your password and connect to the network.
The first major improvement protects against brute-force attacks, which is essentially a computer that's guessing the password at an extremely fast rate, whereby the hacker takes data from your Wi-Fi stream and brings it to an offsite computer until a password match is found. The new WPA3 protections will only allow a single guess against data that is offline. Instead of taking it offsite, they will have to interact with an active Wi-Fi device by being physically present in order to use brute-force attacks.
Secondly, even if the hacker breaks the password to your network, the only data they would be able to see is the live data currently transmitting through the network. WPA3 will not allow an intruder to see prior data… only current data once you are in.
These protections are not an overnight flip of the switch and will take several years to fully process. The first thing you’ll need to do is have a router that supports WPA3 protocol or conveniently possess a router that can update to support it. Secondly, you’ll need the endpoint device to support WPA3 security protocol to communicate successfully with the network and utilize the new technology. You’ll also have to wait a couple of years for devices to adopt the WPA3 security protocol. Since it isn’t mandatory in new products yet, this will take some time, however, with Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) technology coming out soon, it may consequently help adoption of the new wireless security. Eventually it will become a requirement, but as of right now, it’s just something that we will need to patiently wait for.