The Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA), which certifies IEEE 802.11 wireless networking products with the Wi-Fi marketing label, announced today that it has ratified a new standard for wireless security. Dubbed Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), the technology will replace the compromised Wireless Equivalency Protocol (WEP) security technology found in most existing Wi-Fi products today. Most Wi-Fi vendors will offer WPA upgrades to existing products through firmware updates.

"Enterprises, small businesses and home users need a stronger standards-based security solution than WEP and they need it now," says WECA chairman Dennis Eaton. "\[WECA\] worked with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.11 Standards Working Group for Wireless Local Area Networks to deliver a robust wireless LAN security solution meeting the immediate needs of the marketplace. This approach allows the industry to bring a strong, standards-based security solution to the market today while giving the IEEE 802.11 Task Group I the time to complete and finalize the full 802.11i Robust Security Network amendment to the existing wireless LAN standard. Security is, and will continue to be, the highest priority for the Wi-Fi Alliance and for the industry."

WEP is currently available in 11 Mbps 802.11b and 54 Mbps 802.11a products from a wide range of manufacturers, but the technology was compromised almost immediately, making it fairly easy for hackers to bypass security on many wireless networks. The new scheme, WPA, is based on several different strong algorithms for encrypting network traffic, though the WECA hasn't yet provided many details of how the technology works.