Microsoft officially announced the availability of a free software update that adds Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) protections and Wireless Provisioning Services Information Element (WPS IE) support to Windows XP SP2. The software giant hopes that the software, which was quietly released in April, will help spur the adoption of wireless access among enterprises and government agencies that have been leery of letting their data take to the airwaves.
The software’s WPA2 certification affirms that the OS conforms to the Wi-Fi Alliance’s 802.11i standard, which boosts the security of wireless networks and can help wireless internet service providers (WISPs) streamline their network deployments.
According to the company’s Knowledge Base Article, the update enables the following WPA2 features:
WPA2 Enterprise using IEEE 802.1X authentication and WPA2 Personal using a preshared key (PSK).
The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) using the Counter Mode-Cipher Block Chaining (CBC)-Message Authentication Code (MAC) Protocol (CCMP) that provides data confidentiality, data origin authentication, and data integrity for wireless frames.
- The optional use of Pairwise Master Key (PMK) caching and opportunistic PMK caching. In PMK caching, wireless clients and wireless access points cache the results of 802.1X authentications. Therefore, access is much faster when a wireless client roams back to a wireless access point to which the client already authenticated.
- The optional use of preauthentication. In preauthentication, a WPA2 wireless client can perform an 802.1X authentication with other wireless access points in its range when it is still connected to its current wireless access point.
For the user, new options appear in the operating system’s wireless network configuration boxes. To enable the WPA2 access, users will select from the newly added WPA2 (for WPA2 Enterprise) and WPA2-PSK (for WPA2 Personal) choices in the Network Authentication drop-down under the Association tab.