encryption standard fell first in the war against wireless insecurity,
discredited by simple hacks. Now, with the arrival of high-speed
wireless technology in the form of 802.11n, it is WPA's turn to feel
the chill of obsolescence.
The tough fact is that if you
want to use ‘n' wireless technology at high speed on even a single
client it will almost certainly be impossible to do so with anything
other than the more advanced and secure WPA2/AES; WPA and TKIP is out
of luck. Every wireless ‘n' adaptor we have seen mandates the use of
WPA2 (or no encryption at all) in order to get the full speed boost, failing which the client
will revert back to plain ‘g' levels of throughput.
practical terms, to get even a single laptop to connect to an 802.11n access point at high throughput levels will require that every other laptop or
remote PC use WPA2 as well, even if they are only configured with
802.11g adaptors capable of lower speeds. So the arrival of ‘n'
wireless LANs forces a security upgrade if it is to be worth bothering
It is possible, by the way, that WLANs using WPA might
appear to work with 802.11n products, but check the actual throughput
levels you are getting. In most cases, it will be 54Mbit/s or, less
often, and sometimes dedicated clients can erroneously report higher
speeds which are not being achieved.
On Windows 7, Vista, and
with any wireless product sold after about the middle of 2006, this
won't be a problem, and it simply a matter of changing the client
encryption scheme to match the wireless access point/router. But if
your wireless card or PC dates from before that moment in time (which
is to say most Windows XP machines) then an upgrade will be required.
fixing Windows itself, the first step is to check for new drivers for
the PC's wireless adaptor after noting the version number of the driver
itself in the properties tab in the XP wireless client. Anything before
2006 will probably need an update.
Actually finding these
drivers can be a challenge because Windows sometimes can't find them
using its own built-in driver update option. For instance, older but
common Atheros chipset drivers can be very time-consuming to trace, and
involved almost being hit with malware by criminals posing as a
legitimate driver update site. Incredibly, the Atheros main site
offered no drivers at all.
Once those are installed, check inside the Windows client to see whether WPA2 can actually be selected as a mode at all. If it can, the quest is at an end. If it can't, and the only encryption options are for WEP and WPA with TKIP, then Microsoft's official patch is needed. This can be found here.Next stop, usable Wi-Fi authentication.
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