Personal information and files on your wireless network can sometimes be seen by people who skulk around looking for open (non-secured) Wi-Fi networks. Today’s wireless routers have much greater operating ranges (the distance the wireless signal travels), and this means that someone 200-300 feet away from your home can access your connection. If they have the right kind of software installed, they can intercept data coming from and going to your computer. How likely is this? Not very likely, but there’s no sense taking a chance. If you’re on secure server (https://) like a banking site or financial site, the snoop wouldn’t be able to intercept the data being transmitted to the secure server or from the secure server, except at the point of entry. Secure servers encrypt data with a 128-bit key that expires as soon as your session ends. It would take a hacker using a brute force password cracking tool, trillions years to crack a key with 2 to the 128th power random characters. Since our universe is only 13 billion years-old now, you really don’t have to worry about that. If you’re still around in a few trillion years, drop EB a postcard, she’ll be in Restlawn.
But leaving your Wi-Fi connection open so that anyone can use it, isn’t a good idea. Data you transmit can be intercepted, and if you’re sending private and confidential data, it can be intercepted by anyone using a simple packet sniffer. (No, EB, that’s snifter – Brandy Snifter – not “sniffer”).
Secure your Wi-Fi network and you won’t have to worry about that friendly stranger in the black sedan parked just down the street – for the last 3 hours.
In Windows Vista and Windows, the “Set Up a Network wizard” will guide you through setting up a security key, quickly and easily. You can access the “Set Up a Network wizard” by clicking: Control Panel\Network and Internet\Network and Sharing Center and choosing “Set up a new connection or network” from the list – then choose “Set up a new network”. Use the wizard to guide you through setting up a security key for your home Wi-Fi connection.
Encryption methods for wireless networks: There are currently three types of wireless network encryption: Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA and WPA2), Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), and 802.1x. The first two are described in more detail when using the wizard. 802.1x is typically used for large businesses and therefore we won’t cover it here.
Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA and WPA2): WPA and WPA2 require users to provide a security key to connect. Once the key has been validated, all data sent between the computer or device and the access point is encrypted.
There are two types of WPA authentication: WPA and WPA2. If possible, use WPA2 because it is the most secure. Almost all new wireless adapters support WPA and WPA2, but some older ones don’t. In WPA-Personal and WPA2-Personal, each user is given the same passphrase. This is the recommended security setup for home networks.
Here’s a link to a WPA key generator if you want a quick way to generate a random WPA key.
This information is for Windows XP users whose computers have older adapters don’t support WPA or WPA2:
Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) – WEP is an older network security method that’s still available to support older devices, but it’s no longer recommended. When you enable WEP, you set up a network security key. This key encrypts the information that one computer sends to another computer across your network. However, WEP security is relatively easy to crack.
If after reading all of the above, you still want to use WEP shared key authentication, you can do so by following these steps:
To manually create a network profile using WEP shared key authentication:
1.Click Control Panel\Network and Internet\Network and Sharing Center
2.Click Set up a new connection or network.
3. Click Manually connect to a wireless network, and then click Next.
4. On the Enter information for the wireless network you want to add page, under Security type, select WEP.
5. Complete the rest of the page, and then click Next.
6. Click Change connection settings.
7. Click the Security tab, and then, under Security type, click Shared.
8. Click OK, and then click Close.