What Is a Wireless Intrusion Prevention System (WIPS)?

A wireless intrusion prevention system can detect and defend against attacks and unauthorized access to a WLAN. It provides additional protection for the wireless network environment. The WIPS consists of several components and uses sensors to monitor the wireless network.

What is WIPS (Wireless Intrusion Prevention System)?

The acronym WIPS stands for Wireless Intrusion Prevention System. It is a combination of Intrusion Detection System (IDS) and Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) for wireless networks. The system monitors the WLAN and can detect and defend against attacks or unauthorized access. WIPS consists of several components such as sensors, servers, and management consoles.

The components can be dedicated or integrated into existing WLAN devices. By monitoring the frequency spectrum and the transmitted data packets, fraudulent access points, for example, can be detected and rendered harmless.

How a WIPS Works

To effectively detect and defend against unauthorized WLAN access or bogus access points, the wireless intrusion prevention system must monitor and analyze both the radio frequencies and the data exchanged on the WLAN. Unauthorized devices and access points, for example, can be identified by their MAC addresses.

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If the unwanted devices engage in so-called MAC address spoofing and use forged MAC addresses, techniques such as the recognition of unique fingerprints can be used for extended protection. In this case, the WIPS identifies the authorized devices based on specific characteristics and behaviors. A WIPS is capable of detecting various WLAN attack methods such as DoS attacks, honeypots, or man-in-the-middle attacks. The WIPS is controlled via central administration interfaces.

The systems are usually configured to take defensive measures independently when threats are detected, while simultaneously alerting a predefined group of people.

What Does A WIPS Defense Look Like?

Wireless intrusion prevention systems master different defense methods for various threat scenarios. For example, a rogue access point can be rendered harmless by having the WIPS send de-authorization packets to the fake access point and the clients connected to it.

The de-authorization packets impersonate each other as clients or access points and cause the communication partners to disconnect. If suspicious activity is detected on certain unintended radio channels, it can be blocked by various measures.

The Components of A WIPS

In principle, WIPS consists of three components. These are:

  • Sensors for monitoring the network and the radio spectrum
  • A management system for administration and operation of the wips
  • Central server for analysis and communication with the sensors

The individual components can be dedicated physical devices or integrated into existing network devices as additional software-based functions. Wireless intrusion prevention systems consisting of dedicated components offer the advantage that they can be operated as an overlay system without modifying the existing wireless network. They also provide a higher level of protection by separating monitoring from the productive network.

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Benefits of Using a Wireless Intrusion Prevention System

There are numerous benefits to using a wireless intrusion prevention system. These are:

  • Additional protection of the WLAN infrastructure
  • Automatic detection of threats to the wireless network
  • Automatic defense against various attack methods
  • Detection and defense of rogue access points and rogue clients
  • Detection and defense of evil twin access points
  • Detection and neutralization of misconfigured access points
  • Enforcement of WLAN policies
  • BYOD protection
  • Automatic alerting of suspicious activities

WIPS Alternatives

Several alternatives to WIPS (Wireless Intrusion Prevention System) serve similar purposes or address specific aspects of wireless network security.

WIDS (Wireless Intrusion Detection System)

Unlike WIPS, which actively prevents intrusions, WIDS focuses on detecting and alerting network administrators about potential security breaches in wireless networks. WIDS solutions can provide valuable insights into network vulnerabilities and anomalous activities, allowing administrators to take appropriate actions.

NAC (Network Access Control)

NAC solutions offer a broader scope of network security, including wireless networks. They enforce policies to control and authenticate devices attempting to connect to the network, ensuring only authorized and compliant devices gain access. NAC can help prevent unauthorized access and mitigate potential security risks across wired and wireless networks.

Endpoint Protection

While not specific to wireless networks, endpoint protection solutions play a crucial role in securing devices connected to the network. These solutions include antivirus software, firewall protection, and intrusion detection capabilities. Protecting individual devices contributes to overall network security, including wireless connections.

Wireless Network Auditing Tools

These tools focus on identifying vulnerabilities and misconfigurations within wireless networks. They perform security assessments, penetration testing, and wireless signal analysis to uncover weaknesses that attackers could exploit. These tools help enhance wireless network security by proactively identifying and addressing vulnerabilities.

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Wireless VPN (Virtual Private Network)

Using a VPN for wireless connections can add an extra layer of security. A wireless VPN encrypts network traffic between devices and the network, protecting data from potential eavesdropping or interception. It ensures that data transmitted over the wireless network remains confidential and secure.

WIPS vs its Alternatives

WIPS (Wireless Intrusion Prevention System) WIDS (Wireless Intrusion Detection System) NAC (Network Access Control) Endpoint Protection Wireless Network Auditing Tools Wireless VPN (Virtual Private Network)
Function Actively prevents and mitigates wireless intrusions Detects and alerts about wireless intrusions Controls and authenticates network access Protects devices on the network Identifies vulnerabilities and misconfigurations Encrypts wireless network traffic
Purpose Monitor and prevent unauthorized access and malicious activities on wireless networks Detect potential security breaches in wireless networks Control and secure network access Protect individual devices Identify vulnerabilities in wireless networks Encrypt network traffic for confidentiality
Features Packet inspection, signature-based detection, anomaly detection, behavior analysis, proactive countermeasures Detection, alerting, security insights Authentication, device posture assessment, policy enforcement Antivirus, firewall, intrusion detection Vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, signal analysis Encryption, secure tunnel for network traffic
Deployment Deployed in organizations, public spaces, or environments with wireless networks Deployed in organizations, focuses on detection rather than prevention Deployed in organizations, enforces access policies and authentication Deployed on individual devices Deployed for security assessments and auditing purposes Deployed on devices or network infrastructure
Integration Can be integrated with other network security solutions for comprehensive protection Can integrate with SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) systems for centralized monitoring Integrates with network infrastructure and authentication mechanisms Can integrate with other endpoint security solutions Can integrate with other security tools and monitoring systems Can be used in conjunction with other network security measures
Focus Active prevention of intrusions on wireless networks Detection and alerting of intrusions on wireless networks Network access control and authentication Protection of individual devices Identification of vulnerabilities in wireless networks Encryption of network traffic for confidentiality
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These alternatives serve different purposes within wireless network security and can be combined or individually based on specific requirements. Organizations should assess their needs, network environment, and security goals to determine the most appropriate solution or combination of solutions for their wireless network protection.

Common Misconceptions about WIPS

WIPS is the same as a firewall

While both WIPS and firewalls serve network security purposes, they have different focuses. Firewalls control and monitor network traffic at the perimeter, filtering traffic based on predefined rules. WIPS, on the other hand, specifically targets wireless networks, monitoring and preventing unauthorized access and intrusions. WIPS goes beyond the traditional firewall by addressing the unique security challenges associated with wireless networks.

WIPS can completely eliminate all wireless security threats

While WIPS is designed to detect and prevent a wide range of wireless threats, it’s important to understand that it cannot provide 100% security. New vulnerabilities and attack techniques constantly emerge, and attackers continue to develop sophisticated methods. WIPS serves as a valuable layer of defense, but it should be used in conjunction with other security measures to create a comprehensive security strategy.

WIPS slows down network performance

A properly configured and optimized WIPS should not significantly impact network performance. However, if deployed incorrectly or without proper configuration, it is possible for WIPS to cause latency or performance issues. It’s crucial to select a WIPS solution that is scalable, efficient, and offers customizable settings to strike the right balance between security and performance.

WIPS is only for large organizations

While larger organizations often deploy WIPS due to their extensive network infrastructure and higher security requirements, WIPS can be beneficial for organizations of all sizes. Small and medium-sized businesses, public spaces, educational institutions, and healthcare facilities can all benefit from implementing WIPS to protect their wireless networks from unauthorized access and intrusions.

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WIPS can replace the need for secure wireless network configuration

WIPS is an important security tool but should not be seen as a substitute for implementing secure wireless network configurations. Properly configuring wireless access points, using strong encryption protocols, enforcing secure authentication methods, and regularly updating firmware are essential practices for securing wireless networks. WIPS can complement these configurations by providing an additional layer of security.


In conclusion, a Wireless Intrusion Prevention System (WIPS) is a valuable tool for enhancing the security of wireless networks. It actively monitors and prevents unauthorized access and malicious activities, such as rogue access points, intrusion attempts, and denial-of-service attacks. However, it is important to address common misconceptions surrounding WIPS to understand its capabilities and limitations clearly.

Some misconceptions include thinking that WIPS is equivalent to a firewall, that it can completely eliminate all wireless security threats, that it slows down network performance, that it is only suitable for large organizations, or that it can replace the need for secure wireless network configurations.

Understanding that WIPS has a specific focus on wireless network security, is not infallible, should be properly optimized, can benefit organizations of all sizes, and complements secure configurations is key.

By dispelling these misconceptions, organizations can make informed decisions about deploying WIPS and incorporating it into a comprehensive network security strategy. WIPS, when used alongside other security measures like firewalls, network access control, endpoint protection, and wireless VPNs, can contribute to a robust defense against wireless network threats. Regular updates, configuration reviews, and consultation with security professionals help ensure that WIPS remains effective and aligned with evolving security needs.

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