In the realm of wireless communication, security is paramount. With the rise of vulnerabilities like the KRACK attack against WPA2 in 2017, the need for robust security measures has become more urgent than ever. In response, the Wi-Fi Alliance introduced WPA3 in 2018 as a successor to WPA2, promising enhanced security protocols. This blog post delves into a comparative analysis of the throughput and CPU usage between WPA3 and WPA2 security methods on IEEE 802.11n wireless networks.

Understanding Wireless Network Security:
Wireless networks, such as Wi-Fi, utilize electromagnetic waves for data transmission, offering convenience but also posing security challenges due to the openness of the medium. Security threats in wireless networks include data eavesdropping, which necessitates robust measures for confidentiality, authentication, and data integrity. The evolution of security standards, from WEP to WPA and then WPA2, reflects the ongoing effort to address these challenges.

Introducing WPA3:
WPA3 represents a significant advancement in wireless network security. It introduces stronger encryption methods, such as 128-bit and 192-bit encryption, in both personal and enterprise modes. Additionally, WPA3 enhances network resilience through features like Protected Management Frames (PMF), reducing vulnerabilities and ensuring a more secure communication environment.

Implementation with OpenWrt:
OpenWrt, a Linux-based operating system, provides a flexible platform for experimenting with network configurations. While WPA3 support is available in OpenWrt version 19.07, additional packages may need to be installed to enable WPA3 functionality. Configuration involves setting up WPA3 on both the Access Point and the Client, ensuring compatibility and security across the network.

Throughput Testing and CPU Utilization:
To assess the performance of WPA3 compared to WPA2, throughput testing using iPerf3 is conducted. The results reveal that WPA3 achieves slightly better throughput, delivering approximately 13MB more data in a 1-minute test duration compared to WPA2. However, there is a trade-off in CPU utilization, with WPA3 exhibiting higher CPU usage, particularly during peak times.

In conclusion, while WPA3 offers enhanced security and marginally better throughput compared to WPA2, it comes with a slight increase in CPU utilization. Despite this trade-off, the improved security features of WPA3 make it a worthwhile investment for wireless network users. By understanding the nuances of these security methods and their impact on network performance, users can make informed decisions to safeguard their data and ensure a secure wireless communication environment.

Special thanks to Dedy Cahyadi, Indah Fitri Astuti and Nazaruddin discussions on OpenWrt Router, which greatly contributed to this research.

References: Cahyadi (ICETIR 2021).docx?sequence=1&isAllowed=y#:~:text=The test results on the,13MB more data than WPA2(opens in a new tab)


An amateur radio operator, Royal Signals veteran, jack of all trades and master of none.

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