Is Community Wi-Fi Secure?

11 November 2022

Posted by: Mark Munger

A common question from both owners and tenants is about the security of a community Internet or shared Wi-Fi system. With hacking events in the news weekly, this is top of mind for a lot of users. The answer is that community Wi-Fi is more secure than an individual user putting in their own internet access and wireless. Though with that, we also caution that users must remain diligent with their own security measures. The Internet is a public place and if sending information to others, you should ensure you are securing your information once it leaves your local environment.

Let's start with the systems that Interact Solutions installs. We implement a system of wireless security more secure than any consumer wireless products adding 24/7 monitoring by our operations center. The system includes lightweight access points (LAPs) and a master controller maintaining a level of Wi-Fi security used by enterprise companies and military installations. The master controller manages authentication, virtual LANs (VLANs), and encryption from the wireless devices thru the network. This is different than any consumer equipment sold by your neighborhood technology store. The enterprise wireless controller architecture has significant security and operational capabilities that consumer equipment does not have.

Interact implements a managed, community Wi-Fi solution engineered to eliminate issues with internet access, signal strength, conflicts with neighbors' Wi-Fi, and equipment issues. Our managed system enhances security against fraudulent access and theft of credentials using techniques such as monitoring unsuccessful access attempts and rogue access points.

For the techies out there, Interact implements the IEEE 802.11i Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2-AES) for authentication and encryption, IEEE 802.1Q VLAN technology, and Dynamic PSK (DPSK), an enhanced version of the WPA2-PSK standard. These combined provide significant protection for our customers.

The encryption currently deployed, WPA2-AES, is the most widely adopted Wi-Fi encryption standard available in customers' devices. WPA2 uses the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) with Cipher Block Chaining Message (CCMP) authentication. AES is the same standard used by the United States government to protect classified information. Interact actively updates its security and evaluates new security technologies such as WPA3, the latest Wi-Fi standard, and will implement it as it is supported by customer devices.

Each Interact customer is provided personal Wi-Fi credentials that admit them to their Personal Area Network (PAN). Each customer's device is authenticated with their individual DPSK PAN credentials, encrypted with WPA2-AES, and separated from all other customer traffic. A customer's data is secure from all other traffic. 

Though Wi-FI as a standard provides the same access as other Wi-Fi, managed community Wi-Fi is more secure than any individual Wi-Fi due to its commercial-grade equipment, professional installation, and 24/7 monitoring. This architecture is very different than the consumer products many of our customers use today. Our engineers have hundreds of hours of training and years of experience to implement these networks. We welcome questions about our wireless environment and how we protect our customers, their data, and all the information on our community Wi-Fi networks.