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A Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) is a type of local area network that uses wireless communication to connect devices, such as computers and smartphones, within a specific area. Unlike a wired network, which requires physical cables to establish connections, WLANs facilitate connections through radio frequency (RF) signals, providing a more flexible networking option.

Key Components of WLAN

There are two main components in a WLAN:

  • Wireless Access Point (WAP): A WAP is a networking device that enables wireless devices to connect to the network. It acts as a bridge between the devices and the wired network, converting RF signals into data that can travel through a wired connection.
  • Wireless Client: Wireless clients are devices like laptops, smartphones, and tablets that are fitted with WLAN adapters. These adapters enable devices to send and receive wireless signals to connect with the WAP.

Key WLAN Standards

There are several WLAN standards, defined by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.11 series. Some of the most common standards include:

  • 802.11a: Supports throughput up to 54 Mbps in the 5 GHz frequency band.
  • 802.11b: Supports throughput up to 11 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz frequency band.
  • 802.11g: Supports throughput up to 54 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz frequency band and is backward compatible with 802.11b.
  • 802.11n: Supports throughput up to 600 Mbps and operates in both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands.
  • 802.11ac: Supports throughput up to several Gigabits per second and operates in the 5 GHz frequency band. This is currently the most widely adopted standard.

WLAN Security

As WLANs use wireless signals to transmit data, they can be susceptible to various security threats. Some essential security measures include:

  • Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP): An early security protocol that uses encryption to protect wireless communications. Due to several security flaws, it has been replaced by more secure protocols.

  • Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA): WPA is an enhanced security protocol that addressed the vulnerabilities of WEP. It uses Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) for encryption and provides better authentication and encryption methods.

  • Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2): WPA2 is an advanced security protocol that uses Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption and replaces TKIP from WPA. This protocol provides a high level of security and is currently the recommended standard for securing WLANs.

  • Wi-Fi Protected Access 3 (WPA3): WPA3 is the latest security standard with enhanced encryption and authentication features. It addresses the vulnerabilities in WPA2 and provides even stronger security for WLANs.

To maintain a secure WLAN, it’s essential to use the appropriate security standard, change default settings, and regularly update firmware to address any security vulnerabilities.

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