Wi-Fi Alliance Simplifies Wi-Fi Naming Scheme With Upcoming ‘Wi-Fi 6’ Release

The Wi-Fi Alliance, dedicated to developing new wireless networking standards, is planning to make Wi-Fi naming simpler with the upcoming launch of the newest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ax.

802.11ax will be known as "Wi-Fi 6," making it easier for Wi-Fi users to understand the difference between 802.11ax, 802.11ac, and 802.11n.


With the launch of Wi-Fi 6, 802.11ac will be known as "Wi-Fi 5," while 802.11n will be known as "Wi-Fi 4."
"For nearly two decades, Wi-Fi users have had to sort through technical naming conventions to determine if their devices support the latest Wi-Fi," said Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO of Wi-Fi Alliance. "Wi-Fi Alliance is excited to introduce Wi-Fi 6, and present a new naming scheme to help industry and Wi-Fi users easily understand the Wi-Fi generation supported by their device or connection."
Wi-Fi 6 will introduce higher data rates, increased capacity, better performance in dense environments like concerts and sporting events, and improved power efficiency so Wi-Fi won't eat up as much battery on future devices.

In 802.11ax tests, speeds of up to 4.8Gbit/s over the 5GHz band have been reached. In demonstrations at CES, speeds maxed out at 11Gbit/s.

The new capabilities being introduced are outlined below, as specified by the Wi-Fi Alliance.

  • Uplink and downlink orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA) increases efficiency and lowers latency for high demand environments

  • 1024 quadrature amplitude modulation mode (1024-QAM) enables peak gigabit speeds for emerging, bandwidth-intensive use cases

  • Improved medium access control (MAC) control signaling increases throughput and capacity while reducing latency

  • Increased symbol durations make outdoor network operations more robust


Wi-Fi 6 is expected to provide performance improvements to smart home setups with multiple Internet of Things devices, as well as businesses and those running large-scale deployments. The Wi-Fi 6 standard is expected to be finalized next year.

Tag: wi-fi

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TP-Link Announces New ‘Deco M9 Plus’ Mesh Wi-Fi System That Doubles as Smart Home Hub

The latest entry in the mesh router market comes today from TP-Link, which has announced availability of the Deco M9 Plus Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 2-Pack System. The router is TP-Link's newest mesh offering and promises to eliminate Wi-Fi dead spots with dependable connections to "more than 100 devices" throughout a home, and it also doubles as a smart home hub for IoT products.

TP-Link says the Deco M9 Plus provides a "stronger and more dynamic" backhaul than rival systems, supplementing its dedicated 5 GHz backhaul with additional backhaul throughput from other Wi-Fi bands as network demand increases. The system automatically identifies the strongest connection for every device (4K streaming boxes, game consoles, etc) to keep the network running smoothly.


“From everyday activities like streaming Netflix and using smart voice assistants, to occasional video chats with friends or online gaming, our home lives are more connected than ever before,” said Derrick Wang, director of product management at TP-Link USA Corp.

“Today, families need Wi-Fi systems that can support the higher demands put on their network, delivering reliable performance in every room of the home. Deco M9 Plus is a powerful solution designed to meet the Wi-Fi needs of the modern smart home.”
The 2-pack provides Wi-Fi for homes up to 4,500 square feet, and a single pack can be purchased to add to the network. Once set up, the connected Deco App can limit and monitor internet usage for all devices connected to the system. In terms of security, TP-Link HomeCare provides antivirus and malware protection in an effort to safeguard every connected device on the network from outside malware and hackers.

More Deco M9 Plus features:
- Standard 2-pack offers coverage up to 4,500 sq. ft.
- Powerful AC2200 tri-band Wi-Fi
- Three Wi-Fi bands with a dedicated backhaul to support 100-plus devices
- Quad-core CPU with 4 GB eMMC Flash and 512 MB RAM
- Wireless speeds of up to 400 Mbps on 2.4 GHz + 867 Mbps on 5 GHz (1) + 867 Mbps on 5 GHz (2)
- 6 Wi-Fi antennas, 1 Bluetooth antenna and 1 ZigBee antenna inside each Deco Unit
- 1 USB 2.0 port (reserved) and 2 Gigabit ports
- Built-in smart home hub compatible with Bluetooth 4.2 and ZigBee HA 1.2
- Advanced Wi-Fi security and HomeCare powered by Trend Micro
In addition, the Deco M9 Plus is a smart home hub that users can set up to enable control of ZigBee, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi devices using the Deco App. TP-Link says this "eliminates the need for additional smart hubs in the home" and the system supports a collection of smart home brands like the company's own light bulbs and switches, GE, Samsung SmartThings, Nest, and Kwikset. The Deco M9 Plus is also compatible with Amazon Alexa and IFTTT.

The TP-Link Deco M9 Plus Mesh Wi-Fi 2-Pack can be purchased for $299.99, while a 1-pack will run for $179.99.


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Wi-Fi Company Plume Introduces New ‘SuperPod’ Mesh Router Alongside $60/Year Subscription

Wi-Fi router startup Plume today announced an upgraded version of its mesh networking devices and a new subscription model for its customers. Plume first began selling its "Plume Pod" routers in late 2016, and today revealed a new tri-band router called the "SuperPod" (via The Verge).

Plume's SuperPod works like any other mesh system, requiring users to connect the first Pod to their modem with an included ethernet cable. The rest serve as wall plugs that users permanently place in an outlet to enhance the Wi-Fi signal throughout their home. In comparison to the original dual band, four-channel model, SuperPod has a tri-band Wi-Fi radio with eight channels and two ethernet ports.


When connected and running, the SuperPod system learns the user's home usage patterns "in a matter of days." This means that the SuperPods will learn when you use Wi-Fi the most (getting news from a smart speaker in the morning or watching 4K films at night) and implement "Adaptive Wi-Fi" to actively optimize the network for more consistent speed and performance.

For users to take advantage of these features, they'll have to subscribe to Plume. The company previously sold the Plume Pod without a subscription, but today is changing that by requiring customers to subscribe to its Adaptive Wi-Fi service before they can purchase a SuperPod, The Verge notes.

The service costs $60 per year and if users opt out of the subscription in a year's time "the routers may not fully work," although Plume CEO Fahri Diner said the company wouldn't outright "brick" the devices if users decide not to pay down the line.
Diner says Plume wants to provide so many additional services as part of its subscription that customers will happily remain subscribed. “Our intent, our hope, is to make the decision a no-brainer,” Diner said in a phone call. “If the customer doesn’t want to renew, it won't be because of the price. They will be unhappy for us for one reason or another.”
Plume is offering price discounts for it subscribers, however, selling a three-pack of its routers for $39, down from $179. Three packs come with two dual-band routers (the older models) and one tri-band router (the new model). In terms of adding supplemental Pods onto the system, the company will still sell its Plume Pod for $39 and the individual price for the new SuperPod is $99.


Potential customers can also choose to pay a flat $200 fee for a lifetime membership to the service, while existing Plume owners will be grandfathered in to the new features for free. Other features include parental controls, speed tests, service management, and "Plume HomePass." This service creates unique Wi-Fi passwords personalized to guests when they visit. The iOS app can also detail Wi-Fi connections, freeze device connections to prevent kids from accessing the internet, data consumption charts, and more.

Wi-Fi mesh systems have become a popular solution for in-home Wi-Fi over the years, with options from companies like Linksys, Orbi, Eero, Google, and others. The technology is looking to expand as well, with the Wi-Fi Alliance in May announcing a new certification program called "EasyMesh," which aims to allow users to build mesh networks in their homes across different brands.

For Plume, orders on the SuperPod will open June 15 and the device will begin shipping June 21.

Tags: wi-fi, Plume

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Apple Says ‘KRACK’ Wi-Fi Vulnerabilities Are Already Patched in iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS Betas

Apple has already patched serious vulnerabilities in the WPA2 Wi-Fi standard that protects many modern Wi-Fi networks, the company told iMore's Rene Ritchie this morning.

The exploits have been addressed in the iOS, tvOS, watchOS, and macOS betas that are currently available to developers and will be rolling out to consumers soon.

A KRACK attack proof-of-concept from security researcher Mathy Vanhoef

Disclosed just this morning by researcher Mathy Vanhoef, the WPA2 vulnerabilities affect millions of routers, smartphones, PCs, and other devices, including Apple's Macs, iPhones, and iPads.

Using a key installation attack, or "KRACK," attackers can exploit weaknesses in the WPA2 protocol to decrypt network traffic to sniff out credit card numbers, usernames, passwords, photos, and other sensitive information. With certain network configurations, attackers can also inject data into the network, remotely installing malware and other malicious software.

Because these vulnerabilities affect all devices that use WPA2, this is a serious problem that device manufacturers need to address immediately. Apple is often quick to fix major security exploits, so it is not a surprise that the company has already addressed this particular issue.

Websites that use HTTPS offer an extra layer of security, but an improperly configured site can be exploited to drop HTTPS encryption, so Vanhoef warns that this is not a reliable protection.

Apple's iOS devices (and Windows machines) are not as vulnerable as Macs or devices running Linux or Android because the vulnerability relies on a flaw that allows what's supposed to be a single-use encryption key to be resent and reused more than once, something the iOS operating system does not allow, but there's still a partial vulnerability.

Once patched, devices running iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS will not be able to be exploited using the KRACK method even when connected to a router or access point that is still vulnerable. Still, consumers should watch for firmware updates for all of their devices, including routers.

Ahead of the release of the update that addresses the vulnerabilities, customers who are concerned about attacks should avoid public Wi-Fi networks, use Ethernet where possible, and use a VPN.


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Major Wi-Fi Vulnerabilities Uncovered Put Millions of Devices at Risk, Including Macs and iPhones

Mathy Vanhoef, a postdoctoral researcher at Belgian university KU Leuven, has discovered and disclosed major vulnerabilities in the WPA2 protocol that secures all modern protected Wi-Fi networks.


Vanhoef said an attacker within range of a victim can exploit these weaknesses using so-called KRACKs, or key reinstallation attacks, which can result in any data or information that the victim transmits being decrypted. Attackers can eavesdrop on network traffic on both private and public networks.

As explained by Ars Technica, the primary attack exploits a four-way handshake that is used to establish a key for encrypting traffic. During the third step, the key can be resent multiple times. When it's resent in certain ways, a cryptographic nonce can be reused in a way that completely undermines the encryption.

As a result, attackers can potentially intercept sensitive information, such as credit card numbers, passwords, emails, and photos. Depending on the network configuration, it is also possible to inject and manipulate data. For example, an attacker might be able to inject ransomware or other malware into websites.

Note that the attacks do not recover the password of any Wi-Fi network, according to Vanhoef. They also do not recover any parts of the fresh encryption key that is negotiated during the four-way handshake.

Websites properly configured with HTTPS have an additional layer of protection, as all communications between the browser and the website are encrypted, but Vanhoef warned many can still be bypassed.

Since the vulnerabilities exist in the Wi-Fi standard itself, nearly any router and device that supports Wi-Fi is likely affected, including Macs and iOS devices. Android and Linux devices are particularly vulnerable since they can be tricked into installing an all-zero encryption key instead of reinstalling the real key.
This vulnerability appears to be caused by a remark in the Wi-Fi standard that suggests to clear the encryption key from memory once it has been installed for the first time. When the client now receives a retransmitted message 3 of the 4-way handshake, it will reinstall the now-cleared encryption key, effectively installing an all-zero key.
As a proof-of-concept, Vanhoef executed a key reinstallation attack against an Android smartphone. In the video demonstration below, the attacker is able to decrypt all data that the victim transmits.


iOS devices are vulnerable to attacks against the group key handshake, but they are not vulnerable to the key reinstallation attack.

Fortunately, the vulnerabilities can be patched, and in a backwards-compatible manner. In other words, a patched client like a smartphone can still communicate with an un-patched access point like a router.

Vanhoef said he began disclosing the vulnerabilities to vendors in July. US-CERT, short for the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, sent out a broad notification to vendors in late August. It is now up to device and router manufacturers to release any necessary security or firmware updates.

Despite the vulnerabilities, Vanhoef says the public should still use WPA2 while waiting for patches. In the meantime, steps users can take to mitigate their threat level in the meantime include using a VPN, using a wired Ethernet connection where possible, and avoiding public Wi-Fi networks.

Vanhoef is presenting his research behind the attack at both the Black Hat Europe and Computer and Communications Security conferences in early November. His detailed research paper (PDF) is available today.


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