Wi-Fi Security: How WPA3 Improves the Wi-Fi Security of Educational Institutions to Prevent New Phishing and Malware Attacks

Securing Wi-Fi connections is indeed a critical step in protecting an organization’s network from malicious actors. By using WPA3, educational institutions can better protect their networks and the data transmitted over them. WPA3 provides enhanced encryption and authentication mechanisms, making it more difficult for threat actors to intercept and decrypt Wi-Fi traffic

With cloud-managed wireless architecture and the increasing use of IoT devices, many educational institutions today have various online functions. While it has its benefits, it also brings risks and challenges. Hence, wireless security has become highly significant. While passwords win you half the battle by ensuring authorized access, it does not secure the entire wireless network. Therefore, data encryption becomes crucial to determine the wireless network’s security. Besides, malicious actors are forever on the prowl to detect vulnerabilities in an institution’s wireless networks. Therefore, institutions need to implement robust wireless security controls, including but not limited to effective policies, standards, and protocols that can safeguard their valuable and sensitive information assets.

Know About Different Types of Wireless Security Protocols

Wireless security concerns data traffic over the air between wireless devices. It includes communications between wireless access points (APs) and the controller device and between the access points and the various endpoint devices connected to the Wi-Fi network. Generally, four encryption standards are prevalent in the industry.

Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP): WEP was the first encryption algorithm developed by Wi-Fi Alliance for the 802.11 standards. The primary objective was to prevent malicious actors from snooping on information assets transmitted between the APs and the clients. However, no one uses WEP protocols as they have become outdated.

Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA): WPA, an improvement on WEP, was more of an interim standard before developing a long-time replacement for WEP. While it uses the same RC4 encryption technology, it also uses Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) to improve WLAN functions.

WPA2: The successor to WPA, WPA2 is also known as 802.11i and offers better encryption and security by using Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). Besides, it provides an advanced authentication mechanism, Counter Mode with Cipher-Block Chaining Message Authentication Code Protocol (CCMP). However, this standard also supports TKIP for devices that do not support CCMP.

WPA3: Wi-Fi Alliance introduced WPA3, an advanced version of WPA2, in 2018 as the most recent and secure security standard. It uses the latest security protocols, AES-128 and CCMP-128, and standardizes the 128-bit cryptographic suite to disallow obsolete security protocols.

How Does WPA3 Work?

WPA3 is a more advanced security protocol than WPA2 because it mandates the adoption of Protected Management Frames (PMF) to guard against eavesdropping and forging. In addition, while WPA2 uses AES-128 and CCMP-128. CCMP ensures better data confidentiality and message integrity by preventing unauthorized network users from accessing data. The WPA3 Enterprise mode offers optional 192-bit security encryption and advanced 48-bit IV protection for corporate, governmental, and financial information.

How is WPA3 Better than WPA2?

Though WPA2 is highly secure, it has a significant security flaw known as the key installation attack (KRACK) vulnerability. KRACK exploits the reinstallation of wireless encryption keys. Compared to WPA2 Personal, the Enterprise mode has a more robust authentication feature. However, the KRACK vulnerability affects all WPA2 implementations. WPA3 offers a more secure cryptographic handshake by replacing the PSK 4-way handshake with the more modern Simultaneous Authentication of Equals (SAE). It is because SAE requires a new code with every interaction, replacing the reuse of encryption keys. In addition, SAE is an advanced mechanism because it allows the client or the AP to initiate contact as a one-off message instead of a multipart conversation. Since there is no open-ended communication between the client and the AP, WPA3 eliminates eavesdropping and forging. Such attacks usually occur on college campuses because of open Wi-Fi. WPA3 security eliminates these threats.

In addition, SAE flags users who exceed a specific number of password guesses. Therefore, it is more effective and makes the Wi-Fi network resistant to offline dictionary attacks. Since each connection requires a new encryption passphrase, it enables forward secrecy to prevent malicious actors from reusing a captured passcode to decrypt data. Thus, WPA3 safeguards the university’s data from threat actors. WPA3 works alongside Wi-Fi Easy Connect to simplify the onboarding process for IoT devices, especially those that do not have the QR code scan mechanism. In addition, the Wi-Fi Enhanced Open feature improves Wi-Fi network safety by using a new unique key to encrypt information between the AP and each client automatically.

Does WPA3 Have Any Vulnerabilities?

Research has shown that WPA3 has specific vulnerabilities, like the Dragonblood vulnerability. It is a downgrade attack where the malicious actor forces the device down to WPA2, exposing the network to offline dictionary attacks. However, software upgrades can mitigate these vulnerabilities, making WPA3 the most secure wireless protocol today.

The Dragonblood vulnerability is one drawback that can affect educational institutions more because of the higher number of floating network users. Malicious users can tweak the network and set the same Wi-Fi name for their smartphone internet connectivity.

Any unsecured device sharing the internet with such users can get deceived into thinking that it is connecting to the official Wi-Fi network of the university. This attack is an Evil Twin attack and can compromise vulnerable devices to make them unintentionally share confidential information with malicious actors. It happens because of the backward compatibility offered by WPA3. However, educational institutions can secure their systems by ensuring the use of robust passwords, securing admin accounts, and updating their network systems regularly.

How Can WPA3 Improve Wi-Fi Security?

So far, we have discussed how WPA3 overcomes the shortcomings of WPA2 and addresses concerns like the imperfect 4-way and the pre-shared key that expose enterprise networks to compromise. In addition, WPA3 provides excellent protection by making it more challenging to guess passwords. Here are some ways WPA3 can improve Wi-Fi security and prevent the latest AI-based phishing attacks on educational institutions and compromising student data.

Protects network devices: WPA3 keeps your devices secure while connecting to a wireless AP because it replaces WPA2 pre-shared key technology with SAE. It averts key reinstallation attacks and defends against offline dictionary attacks.

Protects passwords better: WPA3 enhances password strength by lengthening the encryption from 128-bits to 192-bits. Therefore, it becomes more challenging for malicious actors to crack passwords by guessing.

Secures connections in public areas: WPA3 provides PMF to prevent eavesdropping and forging attacks in public places. Though malicious actors can get the traffic encryption keys, it is challenging to calculate traffic usage. In addition, since WPA3 offers the advantage of forward secrecy, it provides more data security over open networks, usually observed on university campuses.

The Way Forward – What Cybersecurity Teams Should Know about WPA3

WPA3 has proved to be the most secure internet connection protocol today. Following are the critical aspects that all CSOs should know about WPA3.

  • Mandatory: According to Wi-Fi Alliance, since July 01, 2020, all new Wi-Fi-certified devices must use WPA3. As a result, all the latest gadgets are WPA3 compliant, and it is no longer an option for enterprise networks to use other standards for new devices today.
  • Interoperable: Though all new devices must be WPA3 compliant, the technology is backward compatible. It is interoperable with WPA2-complaint devices.
  • Latest security protocols: Since all new devices must mandatorily support WPA3, the latest gadgets will be available with the most advanced security protocols.
  • No password reuse: WPA3 forces all user devices to save and encrypt their passwords on the AP and client side. Therefore, reusing passwords is out of the question.

As educational institutions rely more on technology for various aspects, securing wireless networks has become more critical. Weak Wi-Fi connections can leave educational institutions vulnerable to phishing attacks, malware infections, and other types of cyber threats, and malicious actors are constantly looking for new ways to exploit vulnerabilities in Wi-Fi networks to gain unauthorized access and steal sensitive data.

Fortunately, the latest Wi-Fi security standard, WPA3, can help educational institutions strengthen their Wi-Fi networks and enhance their cybersecurity posture. WPA3 is designed to address the weaknesses of the previous versions of Wi-Fi security protocols and provides more robust encryption and authentication mechanisms. With the introduction of WPA3, educational institutions can better protect their networks and data against brute-force attacks or dictionary attacks.

Jason Claybrook

Strategic Consultant and Certified Wireless Design Professional (CWDP), Certified Wireless Security Professional (CWSP), Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA)

About Columbia Advisory Group

Founded in Dallas in 2012, Columbia Advisory Group LLC (CAG) is an established IT consulting firm renowned for delivering cost-effective, meaningful, and practical IT solutions that solve complex business problems. Our seasoned teams offer comprehensive insight across diverse regulatory and economic environments, providing unbiased, straightforward analysis and recommendations. We pride ourselves on our deep understanding of IT while remaining software and hardware-agnostic. Regardless of your organization’s growth trajectory or economic landscape, we at CAG are adept at adapting to your unique needs and complexity, offering tailored solutions to drive your success.

Contact us at info@columbiaadvisory.com.

Five Common IT Project Management Mistakes

IT project management is complex, and mistakes are common. However, certain mistakes can have significant consequences, such as project delays, cost overruns, and even project failure. Over the next few blogs, I will discuss five common IT project management mistakes and provide a few insights that can help avoid some of the pitfalls. These discussions will include the following:
1. Poor Project Scope Definition
2. Inadequate Risk Management
3. Ineffective Communication
4. Deficient Resource Planning
5. Lack of Project Governance
This blog will focus on Poor Project Scope Define

Poor Project Scope Definition

Poor scope definition is one of the most common IT project management mistakes. Scope refers to the objectives, deliverables, and tasks that define the boundaries of a project. In other words, scope describes what, why, when, and budget of the project. Just imagine being told by your supervisor “go build a RED widget, and I need it tomorrow” …  Where would you start?… You get the point? Failure to clearly define the scope of an IT project leads to unexpected outcomes, missed deadlines, cost overruns and maybe moreover a negative hit to your brand due to customer dissatisfaction. A clear scope definition ensures that the project objects are clearly understood by both the requester and the project team. It helps to create shared expectations between the parties and sets the boundaries of the project and prevents “scope creep”.

Scope Creep (also known as “requirement creep” or “feature creep”) happens when the key stakeholders continually change the requirements of the project over the project lifecycle. Please note that scope creep can also happen due to misunderstanding and miscommunication within the project team. That said, Scope Creep is not always a bad thing. Customer needs evolve over time and delivering a project that answers their needs often means altering the scope. Scope creep is, therefore, a reality that every good project manager expects and plans for and should be ready to control (Agile).

Now that we understand a bit better the downside of a poorly defined project definition, let’s look at some ways we can minimize the negative effects:

  • Involve stakeholders early in the project planning process. The sooner the better, having a understanding the “why” of the project will facilitate better understanding and make it easier to build consensus.
  • Clearly define the project objectives upfront and Write Down your deliverables. The project objectives should be written and serve as the contract between the stakeholders.
  • Define a change management process and enforce it. Let’s face it, no matter how well a project is defined, change will happen. A good It project manage will have an agreed upon change management process. As stated above, not all changes in a project’s lifecycle are bad.

Well defined project definition will help to reduce the overall project cost, it will facilitate on-time delivery, it will ensure quality, and paramount to it all ensure a satisfied customer. There are many books and whitepapers written on the importance of a good project scope definition. Below are a few resources should you want to do a bit more research on the topic:

Forbes Advisor – Scope Creep: Definition, Examples & How To Prevent It

Wrike – How to combat the 4 Main Sources of Scope Creep

Project Scope Management: A Practical Guide to Requirements for Engineering, Product, Construction, IT and Enterprise Projects (Best Practices in Portfolio, Program, and Project Management)  (ISBN-10 1482259486)

Inadequate Risk Management

IT projects are inherently risky. Failure to adequately manage these risks can lead to delays, cost overruns, and even project failure. According to Kaplan and Fried, “risk is a part of everything. The key is to acknowledge it and face it head-on” (Kaplan and Fried, 2010).

To avoid inadequate risk management, IT project managers should identify potential risks early in the project planning process. This can be done through techniques such as brainstorming and risk mapping. Once risks have been identified, IT project managers should prioritize them based on their likelihood and impact on the project. Mitigation strategies should then be developed and implemented to reduce the likelihood and impact of these risks.

Poor Communication

Effective communication is critical to the success of any IT project. Failure to communicate effectively can lead to misunderstandings, missed deadlines, and project failure. According to Kaplan and Fried, “communication is key, but over-communication is even better” (Kaplan and Fried, 2010).

To avoid poor communication, IT project managers should establish clear lines of communication with stakeholders early in the project planning process. Regular project status updates should be provided to stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle. Additionally, IT project managers should establish a communication plan that outlines the frequency and method of communication.

Inadequate Resource Planning

IT projects require a significant number of resources, including time, money, and personnel. Failure to adequately plan for these resources can lead to delays, cost overruns, and project failure. According to Kaplan and Fried, “resources are finite. Make sure you know what you need before you start” (Kaplan and Fried, 2010).

To avoid inadequate resource planning, IT project managers should conduct a thorough analysis of the resources required for the project. This can be done through techniques such as resource leveling and resource allocation. Additionally, IT project managers should develop a resource plan that outlines the required resources and their availability throughout the project lifecycle.

Poor Project Governance

Poor project governance is another common IT project management mistake. Governance refers to the framework of policies, procedures, and guidelines that ensure that a project is executed effectively and efficiently. Failure to establish proper project governance can lead to project failure.

According to Kaplan and Fried, “governance is a system of checks and balances” (Kaplan and Fried, 2010). In other words, proper project governance ensures that the project team is accountable for their actions and that the project is aligned with the needs of the business or stakeholders.  

IT project management is a complex process that requires careful planning, execution, and monitoring. Common IT project management mistakes, such as poor communication, lack of planning, inadequate resource management, failure to manage risks, and poor team management, can lead to project failure. Project managers must be aware of these mistakes and take steps to avoid them. By doing so, they can increase the chances of project success and deliver quality IT projects on time, within budget, and with the highest quality.

Claude Bird

Project Management Office Lead

About Columbia Advisory Group

Founded in Dallas in 2012, Columbia Advisory Group LLC (CAG) is an established IT consulting firm renowned for delivering cost-effective, meaningful, and practical IT solutions that solve complex business problems. Our seasoned teams offer comprehensive insight across diverse regulatory and economic environments, providing unbiased, straightforward analysis and recommendations. We pride ourselves on our deep understanding of IT while remaining software and hardware-agnostic. Regardless of your organization’s growth trajectory or economic landscape, we at CAG are adept at adapting to your unique needs and complexity, offering tailored solutions to drive your success.

Contact us at info@columbiaadvisory.com.

Redefining Outsourcing: Embracing the Future with Co-Managed Delivery

Outsourcing is a world where businesses attempt to walk the tightrope between cost savings and efficiency. As companies evolve and markets become more competitive, maintaining this balance becomes an intricate dance, particularly with the increasing complexity of technology infrastructure. This is where co-managed delivery of managed services comes into play – a hybrid solution that merges the benefits of in-house IT management and outsourced services. This blend offers businesses the perfect balance they’re seeking. Let’s delve into the advantages, role, and potential of co-managed delivery of managed services in reshaping the future of outsourcing.

Unpacking the Power of Co-Managed Delivery

Co-managed delivery strikes the ideal balance, incorporating outsourced service providers’ flexibility, experience, and cost savings with the control, ownership, and accountability intrinsic to in-house IT management.  Consider these advantages:

  • Control and Ownership: With co-managed delivery, businesses can retain control over strategically important processes and resources, keeping ownership in-house while outsourcing non-core functions such as helpdesk support, security monitoring, network management, infrastructure management, and backup services.
  • Scalability: Since most managed services providers have the ability to scale resources up and down quickly, Co-managed delivery provides an adaptable model, enabling businesses to scale the scope and extent of services as needed to support seasonal increases or decreases in volume and capacity
  • Focus on Core Competencies: By taking non-core functions off their plate, businesses can zero in on their primary strengths and more effectively manage costs without compromising the quality and reliability of IT.

The Co-Management Partnership: Collaboration at Its Best

In a co-managed model, the IT provider acts as an ally, partnering with the business to share the responsibility and ownership of IT management. This calls for a collaborative approach in which the IT provider functions as an extension of the internal IT team, ensuring seamless integration and optimal resource utilization.

The Perks of Embracing Co-Managed Delivery

Embracing co-managed delivery of IT services is a strategic move that offers numerous benefits to organizations. This model, which combines the strengths of both in-house IT departments and managed service providers, is a robust solution for the dynamic needs of today’s businesses. One of the main perks is risk reduction. With expertise from external service providers, businesses can better manage IT risks and ensure compliance with regulatory standards. The second is increased agility; the co-managed model allows organizations to adapt to changing needs swiftly, enabling them to scale operations up or down as required. Quality improvement is another major advantage, with managed service providers offering round-the-clock monitoring, response, and support, enhancing IT service reliability. Finally, the potential for cost savings is significant. Through optimal resource usage and leveraging the IT provider’s expertise and infrastructure, businesses can achieve substantial savings without compromising on the quality of their IT services. 

Driving Factors Behind Co-Managed Delivery’s Popularity

The rise in co-managed delivery’s popularity is driven by several factors, including the escalating complexity of technology infrastructure, the quest for cost savings and efficiency, and the ongoing IT talent crunch. Co-managed delivery addresses these challenges by providing the expertise and resources businesses need, allowing them to focus on their core competencies.

The Future of Outsourcing: A Co-Managed Delivery Landscape

As businesses become more dependent on technology, the demand for a flexible, scalable, and cost-effective IT management model will only increase. Co-managed delivery is that model – a solution that optimizes IT infrastructure while maintaining control and accountability. It’s not just the new standard for outsourcing – it’s a win-win solution that positions businesses to achieve their strategic goals.

Co-managed delivery of managed services is indeed a game-changer for businesses of all sizes. By partnering with an IT provider in a co-management model, businesses can enhance the quality and reliability of their IT services, manage risk effectively, and gain a competitive edge in the marketplace. As we look to a future that is increasingly technology-driven, co-managed delivery seems set to become the new norm. Are you ready to step into the future of outsourcing?

David McLaughlin

Chief Executive Officer, CAG

About Columbia Advisory Group

Founded in Dallas in 2012, Columbia Advisory Group LLC (CAG) is an established IT consulting firm renowned for delivering cost-effective, meaningful, and practical IT solutions that solve complex business problems. Our seasoned teams offer comprehensive insight across diverse regulatory and economic environments, providing unbiased, straightforward analysis and recommendations. We pride ourselves on our deep understanding of IT while remaining software and hardware-agnostic. Regardless of your organization’s growth trajectory or economic landscape, we at CAG are adept at adapting to your unique needs and complexity, offering tailored solutions to drive your success.

Contact us at info@columbiaadvisory.com.

Why are Compliance and Related Controls so important in IT?

Policies and industry standards help to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of sensitive information. For example, higher education institutions must protect student data and financial information through FERPA and other regulations, healthcare organizations must comply with HIPAA regulations to protect patient information, and financial institutions must comply with PCI-DSS to protect credit card information. Compliance with these regulations helps prevent data breaches and other security incidents that could significantly harm individuals or organizations.

Maintaining compliance helps to protect organizations from financial and reputational damage. Failing to comply with regulations can result in significant fines and penalties and damage to the organization’s reputation. For example, organizations that fail to comply with GDPR can be fined up to 4% of their annual revenue or $20 million, whichever is greater.

Maintaining regulatory compliance also helps to ensure the proper functioning of IT systems and processes. For example, IT general controls such as change management and incident management help to ensure that changes to systems and processes are made, controlled, and authorized and that incidents are quickly identified and resolved. One of the biggest causes of a data breach is the failure to patch software systems, so many companies and institutions have policies and compliance controls to ensure this is done. This helps minimize the risk of system failures and other issues that disrupt business operations.

In summary, compliance and related IT controls are critical for protecting sensitive information, preventing financial and reputational damage, and ensuring the proper functioning of IT systems and processes.

Gartner and EDUCAUSE recognize this importance and have published several reports, papers, and studies on the topic. Gartner, for example, has published reports on IT risk management and compliance, as well as studies on developing a successful compliance program. EDUCAUSE has published several papers and guides on various compliance-related topics, such as data security and HIPAA compliance for higher education institutions. Both organizations offer a wealth of information, guidance, and best practices for organizations looking to improve their compliance and control practices.

About Columbia Advisory Group:
Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) is a leading Information Technology (IT) consulting firm. CAG’s team has assessed and helped improve the performance of more than 300 technology organizations and IT departments, including many higher education institutions, state agencies, and Fortune 50 customers. Practice specialty areas include Infrastructure, IT Service Management, Cybersecurity, and A/V Services. CAG improves business outcomes with IT insights and expert technical support. Based in Dallas, Texas, CAG works extensively with clients throughout the U.S. Contact us at .

Picture of David McLaughlin

David McLaughlin