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Wi-Fi kicks off 2018 with security boost

By  on Network InfrastructureWi-Fi


Wi-Fi installed base expected to hit 9.5 billion this year

Wi-Fi Alliance will begin certifying new security features for Wi-Fi Protected Access, the WPA2 protocol that is commonly relied upon for Wi-Fi security, and next-generation WPA3 is on its way with new features that include protection that extends to users who don’t follow recommended best practices on password selection, according to Kevin Robinson, VP of marketing for WFA.

WPA2 made its debut back in 2004 and has evolved over time to meet security needs, Robinson said — and Wi-Fi Alliance has a track record of updating its certification program to address specific security vulnerabilities once they are identified. Although WFA’s certification program does focus on interoperability across Wi-Fi devices, Robinson said, the security aspect is often overlooked.

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WPA2 Wi-Fi security is expected to remain widely deployed, Robinson said. New features will rely on Protected Management Frames, which are already “broadly adopted in the current generation of Wi-Fi Certified devices,” according to WFA, for protecting mission-critical networks. There will also be expanded testing to prevent vulnerabilities from configuration errors.

WPA3, anticipated to emerge later this year, will include four new security features. One of those aims at meeting security requirements for government networks in the form of 192-bit encryption capabilities; another focuses on IoT by simplifying configuration for devices with limited, or without, a display interface. Individualized data encryption for all users on a Wi-Fi network will also be a WPA3 security feature, as will “robust protections even when users choose passwords that fall short of typical complexity recommendations,” according to WFA.

2018 predictions: Wi-Fi continues and expands its ubiquity

According to numbers from ABI Research, cumulative Wi-Fi shipments are expected to hit 20 billion devices this year, with 3 billion new Wi-Fi devices to be shipped in 2018. Wi-Fi Alliance offered a number of predictions for Wi-Fi in the coming year, including:

Home networks take lessons learned from enterprise networks. This continues last year’s trend of the emergence of multi-access-point home networks to improve coverage, as well as better manageability for in-home Wi-Fi networks. “With fixed operators using their own Wi-Fi networks to better control customer experience, managed network features typically associated with stadium, airport, or hotel environments are increasingly making their way into the home,” WFA said, adding, “Wi-Fi Alliance is actively working on a program that will enable Wi-Fi networks to become more sophisticated, bringing a standards-based approach to networks that organize and manage themselves and allowing for greater flexibility and choice in the way Wi-Fi networks are deployed.”

Expansion of Wi-Fi access around the globe. WFA expects to see more access to Wi-Fi in rural areas and developing markets, through initiatives from companies including Microsoft, Google and Facebook.

New Wi-Fi capabilities. This includes the expanded security features previously mentioned, as well as power-saving features aimed at addressing internet of things use cases, and location-based or “proximity experiences” that leverage the Wi-Fi Aware feature.

The emergence of next-generation Wi-Fi, or 802.11ax. WFA said that it anticipates that 802.11ax will start making its way into chipsets this year.

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