Glossary of wireless security terms

By Joel Snyder
Network World, 10/04/04

Original Article on Network World Web Site

802.11, 802.11a, 802.11b,
802.11g : Four standards for wireless LANs (WLAN), ranging in speed from 1M to 54M bit/sec. The 802.11 family is the most commonly used WLAN specification for products built for both office and home environments.

Wired Equivalent Privacy: WEP is a simple, high-speed encryption technique built into 802.11 WLANs, using 40-bit keys. Most devices available today support extended key lengths of 104 bits, which are not part of the original standard but are still highly interoperable.

802.1X: An authentication standard for wired and wireless LANs, used to identify users before allowing their traffic onto the network. It can be used in wireless environments to authenticate users for more secure WEP, Wi-Fi Protected Access or 802.11i deployments.

Wi-Fi Protected Access: WPA is an industry standard based on a subset of an early draft of 802.11i. WPA replaces WEP's keying mechanism with a more robust system, called Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (although TKIP is still based on RC4 encryption). (See full description of TKIP). WPA adds a strong message integrity check and allows for authentication using 802.1X.

802.11i: IEEE's standard for Robust Security Network for WLANs. In addition to all the features in WPA, 802.11i uses Advanced Encryption Standard as a replacement for RC4 encryption.

Advanced Encryption Standard: AES is the U.S. government standard encryption protocol that replaces Data Encryption Standard .