Whether you realize it or not, the security on your Wi-Fi connection right now is likely based on a protocol from 2004. WPA-2, or Wi-Fi Protected Access 2, is the follow up to WPA that was introduced in 2003. Since then, WPA2 arrived to correct many of the problems and vulnerabilities with the original and has been the go-to security measure for most user Wi-Fi interactions. If you have a Wi-Fi setup at home or in the office that has a password, there is a very high likliehood that you are utilizing WPA2 for that security setup.
WPA and other encryption/security measures like it (WEP is the oldest of these) control many of the ways you router connects to your devices and keeps those connections secure from outsider interference mainly by locking things down under an encrypted password. With WPA2, we’ve all become quite used to more memorable passwords for our routers and it is pretty rare these days to see even the least tech-savvy home leave their Wi-Fi network on without some sort of password to keep things secure.
In 2018, a new version of WPA was introduced and is now beginning to show up in more routers as the months have worn on. WPA3 will be the new standard for Wi-Fi security moving forward, and it offers up some great new features that will become commonplace in the upcoming years with public and private Wi-Fi networks alike. The new things you can expect from WPA3 include:
- Password protection: put plainly, WPA3 will be far more secure with your password of choice. No longer can potential hackers perform things like dictionary attacks (literally throwing millions of combos of words at your router until one gets through) on your network. With the addition of the widely adopted SAE handshake, your network and password are in much safer hands.
- Safer Connections: From simpler, QR code-based setups for IOT devices to full encryption even on those wide-open public networks at your local coffee shop, WPA3 will provide far safer connections across all devices and close up security holes users constantly leave open to opportunistic hackers.
There are far more knowledgable folks out there on Wi-Fi security than me, so I’d highly recommend giving a read to the official Wi-Fi Alliance article on WPA3 if you really want to get deep with security protocols. For me, knowing that a simpler and more-secure option is beginning to roll out is enough to get excited about. While we likely won’t see many routers upgraded via firmware update to WPA3, you can be assured that many routers introduced of late have WPA3 already available: you just need a device that can speak the same language.
Thankfully, it seems software updates to your devices (phones, tablets, etc.) can make them WPA3 compatible, but that will only happen over time. Android 10, iOS 13, Windows 10’s May update, and MacOS Catalina list compatibility with WPA3, but for now Chromebooks are not in that mix. Devices made in the last 5-7 years should be in good shape to run the latest firmwares needed to support WPA3, but it does rely on hardware at least a bit. Pre-2012 Macbooks, for instance, can’t support it.
Though Chromebooks aren’t in this supported list right now, we’ve found evidence that support is inbound. In this commit from just a few days ago, tests are already in the works to get support for WPA3 connections on your Chromebook. With Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android only having these protocols in place over the past few months, it is nice to see Chrome OS not being woefully behind the curve to adopt what will become the new standard for Wi-Fi security in the coming months and years.
Right now it is unclear which Chroembooks will work properly when WPA3 does become available, but I’d imagine those built in the past 5 years will likely be included in the conversation. Hopefully when Google rolls this out in the relatively-near future, they will include a list of supported Chromebooks for us to share. If not, it may end up being a trial by fire when the feature does show up.
For now, if you’d like to test out what devices you have around the house that do support WPA3, you can turn it on in your router settings (assuming your router has the ability) and see how your devices behave. The Nest Wi-Fi router from Google already has WPA3 support and we’ve been using this router in the office for months now with no real complaints at all. The connections are strong and the maintenance has been dead-simple. If you are ready to go in on a great router that you know already has the latest security protocols available, it’s hard to go wrong with the Nest Wi-Fi. It’s lack of Wi-Fi 6 is a bit of a bummer, though, so keep that in mind.
Either way, once the time comes that you upgrade your in-home or office Wi-Fi with a fresh, fast, new router, it is likely that you will want one that has all the latest speed functionality along with all the newest security as well. Look for WPA3 as a listed feature when you go shopping, and make sure to keep an eye out here at Chrome Unboxed for updates on when WPA3 officially rolls out to a Chromebook near you.