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Perhaps an unconventional comparison. If we ignore device compatibility for a moment and compare security features of WPA3(-three)-Personal with WPA2(-two)-Enterprise. Which is most secure and why is it? Not just in terms of encryption strength but also hardened against different attacks such as replay attacks.

I've tried to compare some security features of both. My list might be incomplete or contain mistakes. Please edit the table in this question for reference, if you're certain it is. Or add relevant security features. I don't expect it to change the outcome or answer to this question.

Security Feature WPA3-Personal WPA2-Enterprise
Minimum Encryption Strength 256-bit AES 128-bit AES
Authentication Protocol SAE 802.1X/EAP
Forward Secrecy Yes Optional
Protection Against Dictionary Attacks Yes Can be implemented by the authentication server
Password-based Authentication Strong enforcement Yes
Management Frame Protection Optional Optional
Use of Public Key Cryptography Yes Depends on method
Network Access Control No Yes
Support for Multiple EAP Methods No Yes
Support for multiple users (with different credentials ) Not without the “password identity” extension Yes (usually)
Password identity/login sent in cleartext Yes (when available) Depends (no, if using a TLS-based method)
User password stored in cleartext on authentication server Yes Depends (no int most cases)
Protection against AP impersonation (using user credentials) No (unless “password identifiers” or SAE-PK is used) Depends (yes, for TLS-based methods)
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  • "Protection Against Dictionary Attacks: No" for WPA2-Enteprise is not really accurate. The authorization server may very well have some builtin protection against dictionary attacks (and if you are using something like EAP-TLS you do not have any password at all). This is unlike WPA2-PSK where you can do an offline dictionary/brute-force attack on the password.
    – ysdx
    Nov 6, 2023 at 11:25
  • "Use of Public Key Cryptography: No" for WPA2-Enteprise is not really accurate either. Most EAP methods used with WPA-Enteprise rely on public key cryptography for authenticating the server (EAP-PEAP, EAP-TTLS, etc.) and some for authenticating the client (EAP-TLS).
    – ysdx
    Nov 6, 2023 at 11:28

1 Answer 1

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Security is not an absolute with a fixed score that can be tallied up to determine which item is more secure. Evaluating security requires creating a threat model and evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of each solution based on the requirements and needs of the person or organization.

As a practical matter, both 128-bit and 256-bit AES are believed to be secure and unable to be broken by brute force. 256-bit AES hedges against future cryptographic advances, but 128-bit is a legitimate choice.

Whether dictionary attacks are a problem depends on the networks you're connecting to. I have a password on my guest Wi-Fi network with 128 bits of entropy, which is completely sufficient, and dictionary attacks are not a problem. They may be for networks with shorter, easier-to-remember passwords.

The primary difference, though, between these two methods is the use of EAP and RADIUS and per-user credentials in WPA2-Enterpise, versus a single pre-shared key in WPA3-Personal. Using EAP and RADIUS allows you to easily add and remove users without changing the credentials, which is an advantage when you deal with large numbers of users. It would be impractical for a business with several hundred or several thousand employees to change the Wi-Fi password every time an employee left the company, and it would be imprudent and irresponsible to allow former employees—especially terminated ones—to continue to have access to the Wi-Fi network after they left.

In such an environment, dictionary attacks tend to be less of a problem because the enterprise environment can impose a suitable password policy, the use of a token generated by a CSPRNG, or the use of certificates, all of which can make dictionary attacks a non-issue.

It also depends on the EAP algorithm in use. In many cases, the EAP algorithm used is EAP-TLS or EAP-TTLS, both of which use TLS and public-key cryptography and are strong if configured properly, and can offer protection against rogue access points. If the inner method is EAP-MSCHAPv2, then the method is subject to attacks (since MS-CHAP is insecure and uses obsolete cryptography) and is probably a security vulnerability.

In general, it's impossible to say for certain which is better, since it depends on how it's configured (including the security of the credentials in use and EAP methods, if any) and the needs of the person or the organization. For businesses with more than a couple dozen employees, WPA2-Enterprise is almost certainly going to be the right choice because of the flexibility of the per-user credentials and the ability to use TLS. In other situations, the answer isn't as clear, and depends primarily on the needs of the particular situation.

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