Microsoft announced the release of an update for Windows XP that introduces the Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) for stronger security over wireless LAN connections. The Wi-Fi Alliance released the WPA specification, which offers encryption and authentication improvements that are stronger than the Wireless Encryption Protocol (WEP), which it's meant to replace. WPA is a step toward the 802.11i protocol, which the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is developing.

A spokesperson for Microsoft said, "To improve data encryption, \[WPA\] resolves existing cryptographic weaknesses and introduces a method to generate and distribute encryption keys automatically. Each bit of data is now encrypted with a unique encryption key, greatly improving security. The solution also introduces an integrity check on the data so an attacker cannot modify packets of information being communicated. And to improve enterprise-level user authentication, \[WPA\] authenticates every user on the network while keeping those users from joining rogue networks."

Microsoft has published an article about WPA for XP. To download Microsoft's free WPA update for XP, visit the company's Web site. You can also learn more about the upcoming 802.11i specification in the October 23, 2002, Security UPDATE article, "Increasing Wireless Security with TKIP."