Namibians love their Wi-Fi, we hold our smartphones in front of us desperately seeking a Wi-Fi router to latch onto in a hotel, airport, shopping centre, restaurant or any venue we may be at.
As soon as the signal is strong enough, we try to connect. ‘No security code required’, are the most beautiful words in the English language at that moment and free internet connectivity is ours for the taking. Youtube, Whatsapp, Facebook and Instagram are all updated in a blink of an eye and all done without wasting any of your valuable data.
Our phones contain all our data, all our passwords and almost our complete life these days. We assume the connection to the free Wi-Fi is safe, but we have no real way of knowing. The fact that it is free, is enough for us to not even think about the safety consequences. This is how hackers, criminals, phishing scams happen on unsecured networks.
This not just a problem in Namibia, although we tend to be less security-minded when going online than some other countries, this is something that Wi-Fi-providers and IT-companies have realised is a real challenge. This is why years ago when Wi-Fi first come to prominence the Wi-Fi Alliance was set up and a Wi-Fi Protected Access or WPA was created to enhance Wi-Fi protections in personal and enterprise networks. This Alliance is a collection of all the major companies that make Wi-Fi possible through their products and services. Open networks and free connections meant that people could see what websites you visited and see all your online activities, including perhaps capture your data in the form of passwords and credit card details or any other personal data. The WPA countered this.
The newest version of WPA to be rolled out is Wi-Fi CERTIFIED WPA3 which builds upon the WPA2 security which has been around for more than a decade. Hackers, cyber-terrorists and criminals have become more and more innovative and cunning therefore good security is essential. Now that online banking and so many other financial services have gone online and can all be controlled and used through apps on your phone, the need to be smart and be able to trust a connection when going online is imperative.
WPA3 fixes things by using “individualized data encryption”. When you connect to an open Wi-Fi network, the traffic between your device and the Wi-Fi access point is now encrypted, even without a password or login when you connect. This will make public, open Wi-Fi networks much more private. It will be impossible for people to snoop without actually cracking the encryption.
This is true when talking about personal online security but perhaps even more so when you are dealing with an organisation, whether public, private or governmental. That is why WPA 3 comes in both WPA-3 Personal and WPA-3 Enterprise formats.
- WPA3-Personal: Is even more resilient, and has password-based authentication even when the users choose passwords that are not as secure or complex as normally recommended. There’s even a secure key establishment protocol between devices which provides stronger protections and stops third parties from trying to guess passwords.
- WPA3-Enterprise: This offers security protection that is almost “unhackable” due to its complexity, providing additional protections for networks transmitting sensitive data, such as government or finance. This keeps the data of the enterprise or organisation safe as well as that of its clients, customers and stakeholders over wireless networks.
Both individuals and organisations are becoming more educated as to the need for online security and needing dedicated secure online access to stop hackers wanting to do harm, spreading viruses and ransomware or steal data for their own gains. However, Wi-Fi protection is often still not up to scratch. With the new WPA-3 level of security, we can now surf online secure in the knowledge that our data and transactions are safe, wherever we may access the Internet wirelessly in Namibia. Providing of course that we take the sensible steps as people, corporations, government and venues to upgrade to WPA-3. By remaining vigilant and investing in our online security and upgrading when new protocols and security mechanisms become available we can keep cyberspace safe for all of us users.
By Johann van Rooyen, Senior Technical Advisor, Green Enterprise Solutions