I have here some wifi hardware whose wifi encryption does not work et al (but as a not encrypted 802.11, it works well). I am thinking on to utilize it on way, where it does not need to encrypt/decrypt wifi packets et al.

My question is, is it theoretically possible? Yes, of course it could not encrypt or decrypt wifi packets, but it is not always a problem: for example, package encryption/decryption can happened by different devices where it only forwards them, or also forwarding packets (with an improved signal strength) can happen without a need to deal with encryption.

Thus, the important question is, how is the unencrypted wifi compatible with a WPA(2,3) extended one?

If I can send and receive any 802.11 packets, but only valid 802.11 packets, and I can not send WPA(2,3) packets, can I take part in a 802.11 network in scenarios not needing encryption? With other words, are WPA(2,3) packets also formally valid 802.11 packets?

1 Answer 1


Unless the WAP allows both in parallel, WPA2 and unencrypted, that isn't possible. Support for both is unlikely as it completely defies the purpose of wireless encryption.

A workaround could be to create a separate, unencrypted WLAN that you need to secure separately (firewall and comprehensive use of SSL/TLS). Of course, the reasonable solution is to replace obsolete or defective hardware.

  • Ok but why? There is a link-layer header, 802.11. Are their packet headers incompatible, i.e. are encrypted 802.11 packets also valid (but undecipherable) 802.11 packets or not? If not, what makes them incompatible?
    – peterh
    Jul 28, 2023 at 11:28
  • I have seen a thing called "software ap". If I understand it well, that is a concept of that software generates the 802.11 packets (kernel or user space software), and not a firmware. Unfortunately, I could not find too much about it, however the general inaccessibility of the 802.11 encryption packets, that I still find very disturbing. I can not even get a detaild WPA3 header and protocol description easily, and obviously not because it would be complex. It is becaue it, while is theoretically an open standard, I feel the market does all to make to closed as possible.
    – peterh
    Aug 3, 2023 at 10:14
  • A software application just uses a network that is connected and available to the system. Connecting a network - wired or wireless - is the system hardware's and the OS's job.
    – Zac67
    Aug 3, 2023 at 10:25
  • I am talking about "software AP", i.e. "software access point" and not about "software app". The important thing is that software is doing the wpa handshake, which is not bound by various hw limitations (most importantly: it can do anything what is possible, like more virtual APs, or bridging packets without decoding them and so on). Hw only gets and puts frames to the physical layer and that is all. My idea is to create a software AP, but first I need to investigate if it is even possible.
    – peterh
    Aug 6, 2023 at 15:07
  • Beside that, I believe at least WEP, but probably also WPA was created considering some degree of backward compatibility. It is even needed because while scan, even the encryption-incapable devices can see the encrypted APs (they only can not connect them). Thus, at least these special packets must happen on a compatible way. This is my theory, but I am not sure because I do not know the 802.11 headers in detail and neither the WPA protocols over them.
    – peterh
    Aug 6, 2023 at 15:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.