Securing Wireless Networks: What Security Type Should You Use?
A solid WiFi network is a must-have for most businesses today. Not only does better wireless networking improve experiences between companies and customers, but it can also increase capabilities within the office by streamlining communication, offering productivity-boosting tools and allowing for better communication among coworkers. However, if a wireless network is not adequately secured, hackers within range can access it and infiltrate your network, gaining access to your private data and information.
Encrypting your wireless data prevents anyone who might be able to access your network from viewing it. There are several encryption protocols available to provide this protection.
Types of Wireless Security Protocols
WiFi security protocols have been through many changes and upgrades over the years to become more secure and effective. Knowing your WiFi security protocol is essential for your network’s security, since older protocols are more vulnerable than newer ones and are far likelier to suffer a hacking attempt. Let’s explore the three WiFi security types and see which ones are the best to use for your wireless network.
1. WiFi Protected Access (WPA) Protocol
WPA was developed to deal with the flaws found in the first WiFi security protocol, Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP). It uses Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) for more secure encryption and Message Integrity Check, which scans for any altered packets sent by hackers, and the Pre-Shared Key (PSK), among others, for encryption.
Unfortunately, much like its predecessor, the WPA security protocol turned out to be pretty vulnerable to intrusion. However, the attacks that posed the most threat to the protocol were not direct ones but those that were made on WiFi Protected Setup (WPS) – an auxiliary system developed to simplify the linking of devices to modern access points.
WPA2 is the successor to WPA and brings more features into the mix. The most significant improvement of WPA2 over WPA was the use of Cipher Block Chaining Message Authentication Code Protocol (CCMP) and Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). CCMP prevents everyone except for authorized users from receiving data by using cipher block chaining, ensuring message integrity.
AES is a symmetric block cipher and is the encryption of choice for the US Federal government to protect classified data, which means it can adequately protect your company’s wireless networks. It uses three symmetric block ciphers, each encrypting and decrypting incoming and outgoing data using 128, 192, and 256-bit keys. The longer the key length, the more impenetrable the encrypted data is to hackers. This security protocol for wireless networks does use more power, but technical improvements have lessened any concerns about performance.
WPA2-AES is the best choice for your wireless networks. Faster router speeds, insanely secure browsing, and an algorithm that even major world governments rely on make it a must-use in terms of offered options on new or existing WiFi networks.
WPA2-TKIP isn’t very secure and is only a good idea if you have older devices that can’t connect to a WPA2-AES network. This type of wireless security protocol uses the modern WPA2 standard with the older TKIP encryption. TKIP is a deprecated technology that is no longer considered secure enough to protect your network from hackers. The main security issue with TKIP is that any authorized computer can access messages. This includes entities that are not the intended receivers.
Apart from security concerns, WPA2-TKIP is also known to slow down systems. Many modern WiFi routers that support the newest and fastest standards will slow down to 54mbps if you enable TKIP in their options to ensure compatibility with these older devices. So, if you have an older device, or for some reason, selected WPA2-TKIP encryption, chances are, you’re losing a significant amount of speed.
Why You Need to Secure Your Wireless Networks
Your business data is critical to your company’s profitability and viability, and you must take care to protect it from outside attacks, as well as internal vulnerabilities. Here are the benefits of securing your wireless network:
- Protect against threats: While no network is immune to attacks, a stable and efficient wireless network security system is essential to protecting client data. A good network security system helps businesses reduce the risk of falling victim to threats like piggybacking, wardriving, evil twin attacks, wireless sniffing, denial of service attacks, shoulder surfing, and unauthorized computer access.
- Improves network monitoring: Along with any wireless network security comes an increasing tool kit for monitoring network usage. Even if the security is as simple as a WPA passkey, you can track who has received the key, line that up with PC addresses in the access point log, and use that information to track usage and spot unauthorized access.
- Prevents liability from the actions of others: Whether it’s pirates stealing Hollywood movies, hackers looking to attack government systems, or identity thieves opening illegal credit lines, cybercriminals can use your internet connection to download/upload illegal materials, leaving you prone to legal action. A robust wireless security system can help keep these bad actors at bay and protect your company.
- Prevents free riders from stealing bandwidth: If your WiFi is unsecured, free riders can use your internet connection and consume your bandwidth, making your internet connection slow. With the right equipment, a single pirate downloading movies, software, or music can severely degrade your network’s performance. By securing your wireless network, you can reduce disruptions to your business due to a slow network.
General Tips for Reducing Wireless Network Security Threats
Here are some steps you can take to protect your wireless networks:
- Use WPA2-AES encryption – it’s the most secure encryption available
- Have two WiFi networks, one for staff and one for guests. This will allow visitors to use WiFi while they are in your office without accessing company data or introducing malware.
- Enable router firewall for additional security layer – many routers come with a firewall that can be enabled from the router’s settings.
- Keep the router’s firmware up-to-date – the router’s firmware contains flaws and can be exploited by cybercriminals and hackers.
Let V&C Solutions Protect Your Wireless Systems
Choosing the right level of encryption should be the first thing you do when you’re setting up a wireless network. If you’re worried about hackers getting into your network and would like help choosing the right level of encryption for your WiFi, V&C Solutions can help. Our wireless security experts will answer any questions about the different types of wireless security protocols and help you determine which one is best for your company and implement it. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and let us help you secure your business.