It seems as if with each passing year we depend more and more on Wi-Fi technology. The number of appliances, devices and gadgets that connect via Wi-Fi continues to rapidly increase, while Wi-Fi networks and Wi-Fi connectivity have essentially become ubiquitous. Interestingly, while our use of Wi-Fi has grown exponentially and Wi-Fi technology has advanced significantly over the past couple of decades, there are a number of myths and common misconceptions that persist.
Today’s Wi-Fi is not invulnerable, but neither is any other network technology. The problem is that the myths and misconceptions that drive much of the perception of Wi-Fi security are based on partial truths and outdated information. It’s like having a debate about vehicle safety, but using arguments that rely on partial data from before seat belt laws, or before anti-lock brakes and airbags became standard. These arguments are meaningless today.
So let’s investigate and debunk the myths.
Wi-Fi encryption is weak
Yes. The encryption standard in early Wi-Fi equipment was exceptionally weak. Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) encryption can be cracked in minutes. However, WEP was replaced by WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) in 2003, and current Wi-Fi technology includes WPA3, which uses advanced encryption methods to protect wireless communications from eavesdropping and other types of attacks.
Public Wi-Fi is insecure
Almost anywhere you go, you’ll find a public Wi-Fi hotspot. Every Starbucks and McDonald’s offers free Wi-Fi, and you can find one of these two (or both) about every half mile or so. I’m exaggerating – but not much. Public networks are often unencrypted to make it easy for anyone to connect, but all devices on the unencrypted network can potentially intercept or view data to and from other devices on the network. WPA3 provides stronger data protection and password security, and businesses can use technologies such as Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Passpoint and Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Enhanced Open for even better protection.
Hiding the SSID will protect you
Security by obscurity is a bad strategy. It gives a false sense of security – so you can think your Wi-Fi network is secure because the SSID isn’t broadcast, but it’s trivial for an attacker to identify your hidden SSID and determine the name of the Wi-Fi Your fi. Network. Don’t rely on hiding your SSID to protect you. Make sure you configure and use the security controls available on your Wi-Fi equipment.
Mobile networks are more secure
Another common misconception is that cellular networks are more secure than Wi-Fi. Many people are reluctant to log into certain websites or perform some functions over a Wi-Fi connection, but will do the same things from a mobile device on a cellular network without concern. Wi-Fi security is not necessarily better than mobile network security. It’s just not worse than that either. First, mobile networks and devices are vulnerable to attacks through SMS phishing or by exploiting vulnerabilities in mobile devices. Wi-Fi 6 equipment with WPA3 is exceptionally secure and offers a wide range of innovative security features and capabilities.
Wi-Fi Alliance CEO Kevin Robinson was a guest on the TechSpective Podcast when he was still Senior VP of Marketing for the organization. In that episode, he emphasized that Wi-Fi 6 is the first generation of Wi-Fi to require WPA3. He explained: “All the tools are there to make Wi-Fi as secure as anything else. A lot of this is about making sure people are using it and they’re configuring it correctly.”
Wi-Fi is becoming – or in many cases already is – the default method of network connectivity for many organizations and consumers. Wi-Fi security is important. It is important to be aware of what the potential weaknesses are and to have an understanding of the features and security controls available. It’s also crucial to separate fact from fiction and make sure your perception of Wi-Fi security is based on the reality of Wi-Fi security today, and not on myths and misconceptions from 20 years ago.