What Is Wi-Fi Protected Access?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Wi-Fi protected access is a strategy for protecting the integrity of wireless services, both in terms of making sure the wireless service connects with authorized equipment such as desktop and laptop computers, notebooks, mobile phones and even Internet-enabled tablets. Also known simply as WPA, Wi-Fi protected access makes use of encryption and authentication protocols to prevent unauthorized users from accessing the wireless connection and using it without the express permission of the consumer who is paying for that service. This approach is commonly employed in many business settings as well as becoming popular with residential users who prefer to limit access to their Internet connection to only devices associated with the home network.

WPA helps prevent unauthorized users from accessing a wireless connection.
WPA helps prevent unauthorized users from accessing a wireless connection.

The basic function of Wi-Fi protected access involves setting up access protocols on devices that the user wishes to utilize when connecting to the Internet. While methods vary, this process can involve utilizing software supplied by an Internet provider to establish the user’s network. For example, a home network using wireless service would possibly make use of a desktop computer to load the software and configure the parameters of that network. As part of the process, the wireless modem would be configured with security codes that must be employed by other devices in order to connect to that network. If the user wishes to add a laptop, tablet, or other device, it is necessary for that device to have wireless capability and for those security codes to be entered on those devices before the connection can take place.

WPA can be used to secure a wireless network.
WPA can be used to secure a wireless network.

For a home user, employing Wi-Fi protected access means that unauthorized users cannot gain access to the wireless connection and use the service without permission. This approach helps to eliminate one of the issues that came to the forefront when wireless Internet connections were first offered to consumers, in that strangers could sit in their cars on the street outside a home equipped with wireless Internet services and hop onto those networks and use them at will. WPA eliminates the potential for this type of activity, and also helps to prevent innocent people from being convicted of crimes perpetrated by criminals using unauthorized access to those connections.

A tablet computer will need a code to access protected Wi-Fi.
A tablet computer will need a code to access protected Wi-Fi.

While other methods of protecting connections have been available in the past, Wi-Fi protected access is considered one of the most stable and reliable solutions available today. Since the access is protected with security codes, it is possible for businesses and residential users to provide those codes for temporary use to visitors if they so desire. This allows the Wi-Fi customer to enjoy both the benefits of knowing no one is using the connection without permission while also allowing the flexibility to allow someone access to the network at the discretion of the individual or firm actually paying for the access.

Hotels may use WPA so only guests can access the network.
Hotels may use WPA so only guests can access the network.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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