Learn the Difference Between WPA2 vs. WPA for Wireless Security

Choose WPA2 for the best router security

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As the name suggests, WPA2 is an upgraded version of Wireless Protected Access (WPA) security and access control technology for Wi-Fi wireless networking. WPA2 has been available on all certified Wi-Fi hardware since 2006 and was an optional feature on some products before that.

WPA vs. WPA2

When WPA replaced the older WEP technology, which used easy-to-crack radio waves, it improved on WEP security by scrambling the encryption key and verifying that is wasn't altered during data transfer. WPA2 further improves the security of a network with its use of stronger encryption called AES. Although WPA is more secure than WEP, WPA2 is significantly more secure than WPA and the obvious choice for router owners.

WPA2 is designed to improve the security of Wi-Fi connections by requiring the use of stronger wireless encryption than WPA requires. Specifically, WPA2 does not allow the use of an algorithm called Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) that is known to have security holes and limitations.

When You Have to Choose

Many older wireless routers for home networks support both WPA and WPA2 technology, and administrators must choose which one to run. WPA2 is the simpler, safer choice.

Some techies point out that using WPA2 requires Wi-Fi hardware to work harder while running the more advanced encryption algorithms, which can theoretically slow down the network's overall performance more than running WPA. Since its introduction, though, WPA2 technology has proven its value and continues to be recommended for use on wireless home networks. The performance impact of WPA2 is negligible.

Passwords

Another difference between WPA and WPA2 is the length of their passwords. WPA2 requires you to enter a longer password than WPA requires. The shared password only has to be entered one time on the devices that access the router, but it provides an additional layer of protection from people who would crack your network if they could.

Business Considerations

WPA2 comes in two versions: WPA2-Personal and WPA2-Enterprise. The difference lies in the shared password that is used in WPA2-Personal. Corporate Wi-Fi should not use WPA or WPA2-Personal. The Enterprise version eliminates the shared password and instead assigns unique credentials to each employee and device. This protects the company from damage that a departing employee could do.