WIRELESS NETWORKING

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Dealing with Security Threats:
Wireless Encryption.

If you don't want your network to fall victim to snooping or people 'borrowing' your bandwidth, then you're going to need to lock down your network. Luckily for you, all wireless technology has encryption built in -- it's just a matter of turning it on.

WEP Vs. WPA.

Security on wireless networks does have a flaw, though - there are two completely incompatible standards, which makes it a pain to set up a whole network to use encryption.

How did this happen?

Well, WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) was the original standard for encryption over 802.11 wireless networks. Back in 2001, though, a research paper was published called 'Weaknesses in the Key Scheduling Algorithm of RC4'. This paper demonstrated critical flaws in the security of WEP that made it trivial for someone to break into, if they wanted to.

Essentially, it is too easy to discover the secret 'key' used for WEP, and once you have the key, you can get into the network and stay in for as long as you want. People quickly recognised that it was almost useless to use WEP on their network - but by the time its weaknesses were discovered, the WEP method was built into almost every piece of wireless equipment out there.

The WEP standard had to be replaced, and in 2003 WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) was introduced as its replacement, fixing most of its flaws. WPA is much more secure than WEP. Unfortunately, though, WPA took a long time to reach the market, and WPA devices were expensive when they were released. Combine this with the fact that WEP is still the default in a lot of software (because it's supported by more devices), and you end up in the confused situation we're in today.

Always Use WPA.

If you're going to enable encryption, always use WPA. Devices bought after 2003 or so should be compatible with it, as the upgrade was made a mandatory part of the standard.

It is true that WEP is better than nothing - it will, at least, deter the casual intruder, who won't try any more than double-clicking to get onto your network. WEP can also make you less of a target for wardrivers, since there will be so many completely open networks that they might as well use instead. However, it's silly to use WE nowadays when WPA is so easily available.

Turning on Encryption.

Turning on encryption in Windows isn't too difficult, but it does involve quite a lot of clicking -- no wonder so few people bother.

The first step is to turn on encryption for your wireless router or access point. The exact method for this will vary between devices, but you can usually do it by visiting the router or access point's configuration page in your web browser, finding the encryption settings, and then choosing WPA. If you have any trouble, refer to your manual.

Once you've done that, you need to change the encryption settings on your computers. Open the 'View Available Wireless Networks' screen by right-clicking on your wireless connection in the bottom-right of the screen and choosing it from the menu that appears. Then click 'Change advanced settings'. Go to the Wireless Networks section of this box, click your network's name, and then click Properties.

Now, where it says 'Network authentication', select WPA. Click OK on everything you've opened. Once you've done that - this is the really fun part - you're going to have to do it for every computer on your network!

It's Easier for New Networks.

While the process is quite troublesome for existing networks, it's much easier for ones that haven't been set up yet. You'll still need to turn on encryption at the wireless router or access point, but once you've done that you can set up encryption as you set up the network using the Wireless Network Setup Wizard.

Unfortunately (and stupidly) Windows now turns on WEP by default when you set up your wireless network. This means that each time you go through the wizard, you need to remember to tick the box on the third screen that says 'Use WPA encryption instead of WEP'. Still, it's easier than changing the settings manually later on.

Published by Dunway Enterprises

WIRELESS NETWORKING INDEX

  1. What is Wireless Networking?
  2. How Do Wireless Networks Work?
  3. 5 Reasons Why You Need a Wireless Network
  4. Confused Yet? Wireless Jargon
  5. Could You Already Have Wireless and Not Realise It?
  6. 5 Things You Must Do Before You Buy Any Wireless Equipment
  7. Ports and Cards: How to Tell What You Need
  8. What to Look For: Range, Speed and Standards
  9. Wireless Alphabet Soup: What's the Difference Anyway?
  10. 10 Steps to Install a PCI Wireless Card
  11. Ad-hoc or Access Point? Network Structures Explained
  12. Fighting with Windows: Getting Wireless Set Up
  13. Sharing an Internet Connection over a Wireless Network
  14. Sharing Your Files and Folders Wirelessly
  15. Create Always-On Networks with a Wireless Router
  16. Connecting to a Wired Network: Wireless Access Points
  17. Taking it Long-Distance: Wireless Extension Points
  18. Wireless Everywhere: Talking Your Laptop for a Walk
  19. Wardriving and the Wireless Pirates
  20. Dealing with Security Threats: Wireless Encryption
  21. Wireless Troubleshooting: 5 Things to Try
  22. Bluetooth: Personal Wireless
  23. RFID: Wireless Shopping
  24. What Else Can You Do Over a Wireless Network?
  25. The Future of Wireless

Disclaimer: Information shown in any of the articles shown above
does not in any way constitute medical, financial or legal advice.

If you require such advice, you should seek appropriate professional guidance.

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