Wireless Security

By | June 4, 2011
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Muriel asks about WEP and WPA2 wireless security
I became a Verizon Fios customer in December. The package included a free wireless router, and was installed by Verizon. I didn’t go wireless until last month when I added a laptop. I’m wondering how old that router is. It appeared to be new because I saw the installer take it out of the box. But I know that’s no guarantee because it could have been sitting on a shelf for a couple of years, or even used and repackaged. How can I tell?

I was given a Router ID and a 10 character WEPKEY which I entered when I logged on (wireless) for the first time. I’m totally new to this. What else should I do? Is WEP security protecting me? Should I be asking Verizon for WPA2 security or can I do it myself? Really Confused now because WEP security is all I ever heard of ’til now.

Our Answer
I’d get the model number off the router and look it up on the manufacturer’s Web site. It should be pretty easy to find that out. Just because the tech took it out of the box in front of you doesn’t mean it’s new. I have RoadRunner. One time I was having cable TV problems and the tech came out and put in a new “box”. About 2 months later I decided to get digital cable because I liked some of the channels on digital. When the tech came out to swap out the boxes, he said “how long have you had this box? We haven’t used this type in at least 3 years.” It was the one the tech had just taken out of the box and put in a couple months before.

There’s a lot of hoopla over WPA2 and WEP. There are many hacker-type programs that can crack a WEP key in seconds. But does that mean someone is going to hack your wireless signal? If they do are they going to have a data sniffer to sniff the data between your PC and the Internet? How likely is that? Not very likely.

WPA2 is virtually uncrackable because of the type of encryption it is. It would take a hacker with all the tools in the hacker world, years to crack WPA2 security.

Sure, we’d recommend that you use WPA2 security, just because it’s easy to set up and much more secure than WEP.

We don’t know what kind of router you have or how old it is, but WPA2 is easier to set up than WEP, as long as your router supports it – and any router made in the last 3 or so years should. Since we don’t know the model of the router or the brand, we’d be shooting in the dark trying to give you instructions.

You should be able to get instructions from the router’s manufacturer’s Web site and from Verizon. But you should need to have a Verizon tech come out and do it. It only took me about 10 minutes to set up a WPA2 connection – using a browser and a router I already had. The instructions were in the little manual that came with the router – and on the manufacturer’s Web site as well.

Or you could just leave WEP security alone. It’s far better than having an open network and having people connecting to your network and doing not-so-nice things. Right? If you want to be secure, beyond a doubt, go with WPA2 security.

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