WPA stands for “Wi-Fi Protected Access,” a set of rules that ensures only authorized users can connect to a Wi-Fi network. Think of WPA as a secret handshake between your router and device. If the computer or mobile phone knows the handshake, it can connect to your Wi-Fi network.

Aside from connecting your device to the network, WPA also encrypts your Internet traffic so no one else can understand what you’re sending and receiving. WPA was introduced in 2003 by the Wi-Fi Alliance, a nonprofit organization (NGO) sponsored by some of the largest tech companies in the world, including Apple, Cisco, Microsoft, Samsung, and Sony.

Read More about WPA

WPA is just one of several router security protocols in use today. Find out more about it below.

Is WPA the Same as Your Wi-Fi Password?

Technically speaking, WPA is a security protocol, while the WPA key is your Wi-Fi password. So, where can you find the WPA key? Your network administrator would have that information. However, the default password is usually printed on the back of your Wi-Fi router. Log in to your router configuration interface and change the WPA key for better security.

How Do I Set a WPA Password?

The process of setting your personal WPA password may differ, but here is the general process.

  1. Open an Internet browser window.
  2. Type your IP address and press Enter.
  3. Log in using your username and password. The credentials may be printed on your router. You may also contact your Internet service provider (ISP) and ask for the details directly.
  4. Look for the option Wireless, Wi-Fi Settings, WLAN, or Wireless Security. The label varies depending on your router’s brand.
  5. Type a password into the WPA Key or Password text box. Make sure to choose a secure password.
  6. Click Save or Apply to set the new password.

How Many Digits Long Is a WPA Password?

WPA keys need to be between eight and 63 characters long. This requirement also applies to newer versions of WPA—WPA2 and WPA3.

How Vulnerable Is WPA to Denial-of-Service Attacks?

Although developed to provide a more secure option of Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), WPA has its own weaknesses. For one, WPA networks are prone to denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, where attackers aim to paralyze a target system.

WPA is quite exposed to DoS attacks since it was designed to shut down whenever it detects two suspicious data packets within 1 second. For example, if two subsequent invalid variables or processes are sent to the network within a span of 1 second, WPA would disconnect all clients then reconnect them after 1 minute. This shutdown process is enough for malicious actors to remain in a network and continue sending invalid requests to keep shutting down services.

What Are the Differences between WPA, WPA2, and WPA3?

WPA replaced WEP, a security protocol that made devices more vulnerable to attacks. Over time, experts saw the need to improve WPA, thereby introducing WPA2 and WPA3.

Knowing what WPA is, we can better distinguish between its versions below.

  • WPA: Introduced as a temporary improvement over WEP, WPA uses the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) for data encryption, an improvement over WEP but later found to have vulnerabilities as well. Imagine WPA as a simple door lock that anyone with the right tools can easily pick.
  • WPA2: This upgraded version of WPA is a stronger lock with a more complicated mechanism that is harder to jimmy. WPA2 was introduced in 2004 and replaced TKIP with the Counter Mode Cipher Block Chaining Message Authentication Code Protocol (CCMP), based on the more robust Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). WPA2 is more secure than WPA.
  • WPA3: WPA3 further strengthened security by providing robust protections even if you pick an easy-to-guess password. It has additional features, including a simplified security configuration for devices that don’t have a display. It can also provide more robust security for networks handling sensitive information. Beginning 1 July 2020, certified devices are required to support WPA3.

The three versions of WPA represent the evolution of Wi-Fi security. Each version addresses the vulnerabilities of the previous one, further enhancing network security. We may see new Wi-Fi security standards developed to address the evolving threat landscape.

Key Takeaways

  • WPA stands for “Wi-Fi Protected Access,” a security protocol that controls access to a Wi-Fi network and encrypts data transferred over that network.
  • The protocol was introduced in 2003 by the Wi-Fi Alliance to replace the weaker WEP.
  • The WPA key can usually be found on the router or obtained from the network administrator.
  • A WPA password should be between 8 and 63 characters long. This rule also applies to WPA2 and WPA3.
  • WPA2 and WPA3 are improvements over WPA, offering stronger security measures and robust protection.
  • Starting 1 July 2020, devices seeking certification are required to support WPA3.