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How To Configure a Router To Use WPA3

Written by: Gryphon Online Safety Inc. / November 10, 2021

Opening up a new gadget or piece of hardware is always fun, whether it’s a new laptop, smartphone, accessory, or router.
But when you start configuring your shiny new tech, it’s not always intuitive, especially if you want to be on the cutting edge with the latest upgrades and updates.
The WPA3 wireless security protocol is a perfect example of something that often goes overlooked for casual WiFi users, but actually has huge implications for the protection and functionality of your network.
It’s time to learn a bit more about what WPA3 really means, and give you a full rundown on how to configure your home router for this vital security protocol.
Don’t worry, you won’t need a cyber security certification or a 12-week course to figure this out – we’re here to help you every step of the way!
Stay tuned and you’ll be up and running with WPA3 in no time.

What is WPA3?

Before we go step-by-step for how to configure WPA3 on your home router, let’s discover more about the WPA3 protocol and why we consider it to be so important for security.

Basics and Background

WPA is short for WiFi Protected Access, a security and certification program originally developed by the WiFi Alliance back in 2003.
WiFi as we know it was made mainstream around this time, and along with rapid adoption of the internet at scale, there was a notable lack of security features for wireless networks.
The very first WPA protocol would be seen as rudimentary by today’s standards, but nearly 20 years ago, it was considered state of the art with 128-bit encryption keys for wireless access points and devices.
That meant that every packet wirelessly transmitted to and from devices and routers would be encrypted with a random key generated dynamically for each data set.
This made WPA far more secure and reliable compared to the first WiFi security protocol, WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy).

Step Up to WPA2

WPA was a pillar of wireless internet technology for over ten years before it started to show several vulnerabilities and had to be replaced with a new version.
In 2004, WPA2 was introduced with several new features as the original WPA system was left behind rather quickly, no longer offering a reliable level of protection.
WPA2 was characterized by new mandatory features, including an Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), raising the bar for devices and services to earn the important WiFi Alliance seal of approval.
WPA2 was the gold standard for WiFi security from 2004 to 2018 and was far more successful in protecting home and business networks than its predecessor.
However, advancements in technology are ever-persistent, and another upgrade was due sooner than later, leading us to the announcement of WPA3.

WPA3 Debuts in 2018

When WPA3 arrived in mid-2018, the WiFi Alliance made several much-needed improvements to the security protocol.
During the life cycle of WPA2, WiFi adoption had skyrocketed globally, not just for home networks and small businesses but also in massive organizational settings like financial companies, hospitals, universities, and governments.
WPA3 is characterized by several key upgrades and a more comprehensive range of options for users depending on their preferences and security needs.
Here are some of the factors that make WPA3 so powerful:
-Robust password-based authentication (SAE – Simultaneous Authentication of Equals)
-Less complex personal passwords required (easier to create and remember)
-Data protected even if a password is compromised (forward secrecy)
-Outdated legacy protocols are disallowed
-Protected Management Frames (PMF) made mandatory
-Minimum 128-bit AES mode with Cipher Block Chaining Message Authentication (CCMP)
-Minimum 256-bit Hashed Message Authentication Mode (HMAC)
-Protected Management Frames (PMF) on all WPA3 connections
WiFi Enhanced Open Mode
-Privacy increase in open wireless settings like hotels, schools, and public networks
-Improved security even without the use of passwords for individual devices
-Allows for organizations, homes, and even cities to allow open WiFi access
WPA3 can also be run in 192-bit mode for enterprise connections, combining the latest cryptographic tools that don’t compromise speed, agility, and access within a network.
It may not seem obvious to a casual WiFi user, but the advancements in WPA3 technology are significant, whether you’re using a smartphone in the home or accessing critical applications in an enterprise environment.

WPA3 Devices

Since WPA3 was introduced somewhat recently, there are concerns about making the transition from WPA2 to the newest protocol.
You may be worried about getting the benefits of WPA3 on older hardware, but this shouldn’t be a problem if your devices are from the past few years.
In fact, the WiFi Alliance states that devices up to a decade old can still use WPA3, and a transition mode is available to make the process safer for sensitive data on networks.
Of course, older routers may not be suitable for WPA3 and may miss out on other advancements such as WiFi 6, meaning it might be time to research new routers and make the upgrade for a range of other reasons.

Configure Your Router for WPA3

Now that we have an idea of what makes WPA3 uniquely secure and safe, let’s talk about what you can do to make the switch in your home WiFi network.

Access the Admin Panel

Whether you want to change your network name, improve passwords, or just monitor the speed and security of your network, the access admin panel is where you need to go.
This is also the place where you’ll switch between WPA protocols and determine the safest, most user-friendly settings for your needs.
The problem that some users face is that no two routers are exactly the same when accessing these settings, and you’ll need to follow the instructions from the manufacturer to reach this portal.
In most cases, there will be a set of numbers located directly on the route or in the user manual that you will type into your URL bar to access the panel. If you have no idea where to begin, there are also instructions online for particular hardware models to point you in the right direction.
The best-case scenario is a router that gives you a dedicated application for the complete range of settings, whether it’s downloaded to your desktop or phone.
This way, you’ll always have quick and secure access to your settings as an administrator, giving you complete control over the network without having to jump through different hoops and memorize complex arrangements of numbers.

Switch to WPA3-PSK

Once you make your way to the settings page, you’ll want to navigate to the “wireless security” or “wireless authentication” section from the sidebar or main menu.
Again, every manufacturer uses a different interface to display security options, but you’ll quickly see the WPA acronyms that let you know you’re in the right place.
You’ll see that WPA2 is still an option, which will likely be the default setting for your network. Simply switch over to WPA3 if you want to make the change, or see if there is a transition mode that offers a mix of both settings at once.

Tri-Band and Dual-Band vs. Single Band

To make the most of WPA3 while still using WPA2 for older devices, you can configure the security settings for individual radio bands transmitted from your router.
On most modern routers, the 5 GHz frequency will offer an option for WPA3, while 2.4 GHz bands are better suited for WPA2.
Some high-end mesh routers also offer tri-band support, giving you three different radios to optimize and configure to your preferences.
We suggest trying several different settings to see what combination gives you the best balance of security, performance, visibility, and overall user experience for you and your family.

A Complete Network Security Strategy

WPA3 is a major step forward for WiFi and network security in general, but it’s only one part of the bigger picture.
Be sure to have a comprehensive network security strategy that gives you greater control over an increasing number of devices, especially if you have smart home and IoT technology and children accessing the web through apps and devices of their own.

Take Back Control of the Web

A complete security plan starts with your router and the settings we discussed today.
However, more parents are eager to revamp parental controls settings to allow or limit access to certain areas of the web or specific applications.
This is not only a smart move for stronger internet security but also the general protection and well-being of your family as you navigate the digital environment.

WPA3 is Here – Are You Ready?

While there is a growing amount of cyber threats on the horizon, hackers and attackers are no match for WPA3.
WPA3 will soon be the only game in town for next-gen networks and powerful devices, so get ahead of the curve today by upgrading to a full-featured router with the complete range of security tools you need.
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