Protecting Mobile Users: Why Wi-Fi 6 Offers Robust Security and Enhanced Usability

Written by

For nearly two decades, public Wi-Fi hotspots have become nearly as ubiquitous as electricity and running water in public settings from education campuses to airports to the local coffee shop. Despite that growth and the convenience public Wi-Fi provides, many of these hotspots remain insecure, if they even require a password at all.

Businesses should ensure that anyone who log onto its Wi-Fi network are protected from the onset, rather than put the responsibility of connecting securely on users. This is because, even when using the venerable WPA2 Wi-Fi encryption standard, only the most astute visitors with self-service security tools, such as VPNs, are able to effectively protect themselves, while the rest of the general public remains vulnerable to all types of threats, ranging from the mundane to the serious.

Moore’s Law and the sophistication of the bad guys means that, with WPA2, a user joining an open hotspot might unwittingly expose personal details or even bank account information given the ease with which a “man in the middle” can intercept and decrypt their traffic.

What if public hotspots could be both secure and simple to use? Thanks to much enhanced encryption available with Wi-Fi 6 and seamless integration with the cellular network, those days have finally arrived. The latest Wi-Fi certification standard, Wi-Fi 6, features major security enhancements that have eliminated some of the weaknesses of older wi-fi technology (think Pre-Shared Keys) and applies enhanced encryption where it’s needed, all in a transparent way for the benefit of visitors, hotspot providers and facility managers.

In addition, with industry standards such as Passpoint that enable secure, seamless roaming between cellular and Wi-Fi networks, wireless access has never been more secure.

WPA3 Certification with Wi-Fi 6

To improve data protection, Wi-Fi 6 enables WPA3 certification, which includes more robust encryption algorithms and enhanced key management. Users can rest assured that the traffic between their respective devices and the Wi-Fi access point will be protected with 256 bit AES encryption and much more rigorous key management rather than having them make their own assessments, or exposing them to eavesdropping, traffic capture and other attempts at decrypting private communication.

While user security is always critical, the real growth in wireless connectivity is in the Internet of Things (IoT). As part of its broad applicability, WPA3 affords simple, secure onboarding for IoT devices by combining QR codes and specialized hardware keys which makes connecting headless devices such as smart building sensors, wireless IP cameras or wireless virtual assistant speakers, seamless and automatic.

Seamless Wi-Fi and Cellular Roaming

Due to evolving building codes, energy efficient construction materials and low-emission glass, cellular signals are challenged when penetrating buildings, resulting in a dramatically diminished user experience. Wi-Fi is designed to solve these problems and is ubiquitous in modern organizations.

To help bridge these two worlds, seamless Wi-Fi 6 and automatic cellular roaming is supported by the industry standard Passpoint protocol. When Wi-Fi networks are Passpoint-enabled, users can be automatically authenticated to the corporate network through the SIM card credentials supplied by a network operator, enabling users to make calls and texts just as they would on their respective cellular networks the instant they walk into a building.

With turnkey Passpoint-based services such as Aruba Air Pass, the combination of seamless authentication and pre-negotiated Mobile Network Operator (MNO) agreements means that enterprises can eliminate cumbersome login processes that require users to manually select and authenticate to the appropriate Wi-Fi network without the need to individually contract with each MNO.

Making Wi-Fi 6 a Win-Win

A simple, safe, secure and automatic Wi-Fi connection represents a win-win for both the user and the provider. New solutions such as Wi-Fi 6 with WPA3 and Passpoint-based seamless roaming provide a more convenient and secure Wi-Fi experience for all types of connectivity from a large campus office building to a work-from-home employee.

With the recent FCC decision to significantly increase Wi- Fi capacity by opening up the 6GHz spectrum, the flood of IoT devices and the associated business innovation with continue to accelerate, making Wi-Fi security a critical factor in protecting the organization.

What’s hot on Infosecurity Magazine?