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Difference Between WEP and WPA

wi0fiWEP vs WPA

WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) is the first security mechanism that was embedded on wireless devices. After major flaws were found in its design, people hurried to find a replacement security mechanism to protect the networks that are already using wireless. The end result was WPA or Wi-Fi Protected Access which used the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol or TKIP to encrypt the data.

WEP was intended to provide a protection level that is equal to a wired network. Users can set their access points to either open or to use shared keys. Setting it to open lets anyone connect to the network while shared key uses a passphrase to authenticate that the user is authorized. But as more people tested its capability, it became apparent that the key can be reconstructed by eavesdropping on the network and catching packets. This can be done with ordinary hardware and software, allowing just about anybody with a little know how to connect to any WEP secured wireless network. The flaw was so serious that there were exhibitions of breaking the network within 3 minutes with ordinary computers.

WPA was a good replacement, given that it was hurriedly put together. Although the TKIP protocol used by WPA is much better, it is still vulnerable to attack especially when weak passphrases are used. But it takes more expertise and effort in order to break WPA, unlike WEP which is rather easy.

WPA can be activated on some network devices via a firmware upgrade but there are devices that are too old and cannot use WPA. WPA also takes up more processing power compared to WEP and some devices might suffer performance hits when using WPA under heavy load.

WEP is a deprecated technology and is no longer meant to be used by anybody as its security is a joke. Although WPA might be better than WEP, it is still not as secure as some might like. For networks where security is of utmost importance, neither of these two would suffice. The only option would be to go for the latest and most secure mechanism available; WPA2. For now, it is virtually uncrackable and provides the best level of security.

1. WEP is a lot weaker compared to WPA
2. Older equipment that can use WEP might not be able to use WPA
3. WPA requires a bit more processing power compared to WEP

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