Microsoft offers WPA2 Wi-Fi security

Microsoft has added the WPA2 Wi-Fi security specification to Windows XP.

Microsoft has added a key wireless LAN security specification to Windows XP, the company announced Thursday.

The specification, called Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 or WPA2, requires a Wi-Fi client to include the AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) algorithm for encrypting data traversing a Wi-Fi network. AES is the type of encryption used in many government agencies and security-conscious industries.

WPA2 is an implementation of IEEE 802.11i, the wireless LAN security standard established by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), which oversees wireless LAN standards. The new, free software from Microsoft supports all features of WPA2, according to Taranjeet Athwal, a Microsoft program manager.

Users must have Windows XP Service Pack 2 in order to use the software, Athwal said. The company is investigating the possibility of adding WPA2 to Windows CE, he said.

In order to take advantage of WPA2, users will also need a wireless LAN that includes the new standard and a Wi-Fi network adapter with the processing power to handle AES encryption, Athwal said.

Many of the wireless LAN access points and client adapters being sold today can use WPA2 and come with add-on software for client devices. But having the software built in to Windows XP makes it more likely that managers of wireless LANs will actually use WPA2, according to IDC analyst Abner Germanow.

Windows support may also boost Wi-Fi adoption in government, where some agencies are required to use AES encryption on their network traffic, Germanow said.

Concern about security has been a major barrier to enterprise adoption of Wi-Fi, which has exploded in popularity in the home market over the past several years. The original Wi-Fi security mechanism, WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) was easily broken. In 2002, the Wi-Fi Alliance industry group improved upon WEP with the first version of WPA, which required the TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol) algorithm and included AES as an option. After the stronger IEEE 802.11i standard was completed last year, the group introduced WPA2, which requires AES and includes TKIP as an option.

AES is required under the U.S. Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2 specification, which covers many government agencies, according to Microsoft. In addition, using AES can help health care providers establish compliance with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), and some security-conscious industries have followed the federal government's lead in using AES, said Drew Baron, lead program manager for wireless security at Microsoft.

In addition to AES, WPA2 uses the IEEE 802.1x protocol, a standard for authentication of users on both wired and wireless networks. Use of 802.1x has grown substantially over the past year because it offers a way to ensure that users are who they say they are, before they gain access to the network, IDC's Germanow said.

Microsoft has already provided the first version of WPA for Windows XP Service Pack 2, Athwal said. But that specification didn't meet government requirements, he said.

Microsoft's new software also includes WPS IE (Wireless Positioning Services Information Element), which lets a client detect both secured and non-secured wireless LANs that are operated from one access point. An ISP (Internet service provider) can run multiple networks from a single access point, such as secured and unsecured wireless LANs at a public hot spot, and broadcast the names of all of them. WPS IE lets a client discover all those networks, Microsoft's Baron said.

Users of XP with Service Pack 2 can download the new software from here.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
Show Comments


James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >




Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?