Wi-Fi Authentication Types Compared

To protect a wireless network, authentication is the first line of defense. When only authorized individuals are granted access to a network, a company knows its data is safe. Conversely, a network is more vulnerable to attack if improper authentication is used. Different authentication techniques have distinct advantages and disadvantages and a varying range of Wi-Fi security.

Wireless or Wi-Fi security is designing, implementing, and enforcing security on a wireless computer network. It is a subclass of network security that offers protection for wireless computer networks. Wireless security entails preventing unwanted users from gaining access to a particular wireless network.

This article will cover all you need to know about types of Wi-Fi authentication and their specifications. Schedule a free consultation call with one of our Wi-Fi security specialists at SecureW2 for a more customized assessment.

Types of Wi-Fi Authentication

Depending on the kind of Wi-Fi connection, access to the network may be restricted using various procedures, such as pre-shared keys, personal identity numbers, certificate-based authentication, and so on.

Currently, there are four wireless security protocols, each with a different level of strength and usefulness. They are as follows:

  • Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP)
  • Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA)
  • Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA 2)
  • Wi-Fi Protected Access 3 (WPA 3)

Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP)

In 1997, the Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) protocol was created as the first security protocol for wireless networks. The aim of this protocol was to add security to wireless communication by encrypting data transmitted over the network. WEP was implemented in the 802.11 wireless standards and used a shared secret key to encrypt and decrypt data.

However, WEP had several vulnerabilities and was eventually replaced by more secure protocols such as Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and WPA2. Despite its shortcomings, WEP paved the way for the development of more advanced wireless security protocols.

Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2)

WPA2 is a security protocol that operates using the RSN (Robust Security Network) and AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) mechanisms to prevent unauthorized access to data. It has two modes: WPA2-PSK which uses shared passwords, and WPA2-Enterprise which provides more comprehensive security. In 2004, it replaced the less secure TKIP protocol and remains a popular choice for safe Wi-Fi communication.


WPA2-PSK (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 Pre-Shared Key) is a network where all users share a password for security. A single password for Wi-Fi access is widely believed to be secure, but only if you trust the users. Otherwise, it is straightforward for an intruder to get access to the network if they have gotten the password via illicit methods. That is why WPA2-PSK is often seen as unsafe.

There are just a few scenarios when WPA2-PSK should be implemented:

  • A few trustworthy devices on the network, for instance, devices at home or in a tiny office.
  • Devices that are not 802.1X-compliant.


The deployment of WPA2-Enterprise needs a RADIUS server, which authenticates network user access. The authentication method is based on the 802.1x policy and is available in several EAP-labeled systems. A private, encrypted tunnel connects each device to the network post-authentication.

Implementing WPA2-ENT with RADIUS provides maximum network security, mainly when X.509 digital certificates are used for authentication.

WPA2-Enterprise needs an 802.1X authentication server anyway; therefore, implementing the highest level of authentication security during setup is only natural.

Wi-Fi Protected Access 3 (WPA3)

WPA3 is the latest Wi-Fi security protocol, released in January 2018. It introduces several security improvements over WPA2, such as 192-bit security and more robust brute-force attack protection. It uses the 802.1X standard and comes in two configurations: WPA3-PSK and WPA3-Enterprise.

Unfortunately, WPA3 is incompatible with most devices currently on the market, so it is not applicable to most users.


WPA3-PSK provides enhanced security by allowing the authentication procedure to increase PSK’s efficiency. This approach leverages Simultaneous Authentication of Equals (SAE) to make brute-force dictionary attacks far more challenging for hackers.

This protocol requires user input for each authentication attempt, resulting in a considerable lag for brute-force attackers.


WPA3-Enterprise’s primary enhancement is its insistence on server certificate validation, which verifies the claimed identity of the server to which a client is connected.

Are you interested in learning more about WPA3? Find out what this article says about the modifications that WPA3 will cause.

WPA2 & WPA3 Enterprise Protocols

With WPA2-Enterprise, a safe EAP form of authentication is needed. PEAP-MSCHAPv2, EAP-TTLS/PAP, and EAP-TLS are some of the most widely deployed forms. It’s flexible enough to work with a broad range of credentials and supports MFA for added peace of mind.

Typically, when users are added to a network secured by WPA2-Enterprise, they are given a unique identification. While this identification is often a password linked to a specific user, certificates are increasingly being used in place of passwords by many businesses.

Certificates are far superior to passwords. This is because certificates are kept on the device, and the user does not need to manually make any changes to them.

This is in contrast to complicated passwords, which users are required to remember and update. When they join the network, the certificate is instantly validated. Certificates are tied to individual devices and cannot be transferred or withdrawn without the permission of a network administrator. Also, public key cryptography stops attackers from using stolen certificates.


As a certificate-based authentication method, EAP-TLS authentication verifies users’ identities using digital certificates rather than credentials. To read more about EAP-TLS, refer to this article.


EAP-TTLS/PAP is a credential-based authentication system similar to PEAP and susceptible to the same vulnerabilities as credential-based identification. To read more about EAP-TTLS/PAP, refer to this article.


A valid set of credentials is necessary to connect to PEAP-MSCHAPv2. To read more about PEAPMSCHAPv2, refer to this article.

Managing Wi-Fi With Digital Certificates

Due to the prevalence of passwords, wireless networks often face security difficulties. Passwords inject a human error factor into network security. Conversely, passwords are readily stolen, lost, or hacked by brute force or man-in-the-middle attacks.

Certificate-based authentication is only one of many viable choices. Certificates protect data sent over the air using public-private key encryption and authenticate users utilizing the most secure authentication protocol, EAP-TLS.

Requirements for Certificates

A PKI infrastructure may be costly and challenging to set up and maintain to enable certificate authentication. If certificates are so much more secure than passwords, why haven’t more organizations implemented them? The answer, in short, is the infrastructure necessary to deploy them.

Certificates require a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) to create and maintain them. In the past, PKIs have been costly and challenging to build, requiring a large degree of expertise to create successfully. However, SecureW2 can provide a straightforward installation that makes running the most secure network easy.

How Can I Secure My Organization’s Wireless Network?

In 2004, the first implementation of WPA2-Enterprise took place. Post which over-the-air encryption and robust security for wireless networks were made available to corporations and universities. The powerful authentication mechanism known as 802.1X has allowed users to access protected networks for many years.

Nevertheless, there may be issues with installing and onboarding new users when utilizing WPA2-Enterprise on a large-scale network.

EAP-TLS and EAP-TTLS/PAP techniques keep data safe throughout wireless transmission but differ in privacy, efficiency, and user-friendliness. In a nutshell, EAP-TLS with certificate-based authentication is safer, better for users, and boosts productivity and security.

SecureW2’s Managed PKI Simplifies Certificate-Backed EAP-TLS

An otherwise conscientious administrator may be dissuaded from implementing the best possible authentication security because of the time and effort required for any customized solution. However, with SecureW2’s Managed PKI Solution, most businesses will likely find the optimal balance between cost and control.

As our turnkey PKI is vendor-neutral and can be integrated into existing network structures, it has the potential to save on setup and maintenance costs. You may also use it straight-from-the-box as a simple plug-and-play network security solution. Our onboarding software is the gold standard in every region, and IT departments love our straightforward, unified management interface.

We have affordable options for organizations of every size. Click here to see our pricing.

Akash Sharma

Akash is a content writer who was born and raised in New Delhi, which is the capital city of the country. He graduated from Amity University in Noida with a degree in Electronics and Communications Engineering; but, after graduation, he decided to pursue a career in writing rather than settle for a more traditional position in the IT industry. Recent findings in astrophysics, genetic genealogy, and true crime podcasts have all sparked his curiosity. He's a purist who longs for a simpler life filled with fulfilling pursuits.

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