Wireless networking made easy

WEP/WPA/WPA2 Security
There's an easy way to secure a wired network -- just stop anyone you don't like from plugging a cable into your router. But what do you do when your router is wireless, and the connection point is essentially anywhere that's within range? That's the challenge with wireless networking, and while older wireless security protocols offered about as much protection as a rice paper umbrella, the situation has improved markedly.

The original wireless security offering, called WEP (Wireless Equivalency Protocol), was intended, as the name suggests, to be the equivalent of wired security, but was quickly proven to have a large number of points of attack. If you've got existing wireless equipment you may be stuck with WEP, although it's worth checking if there's an update to your equipment to allow the next generation of wireless security -- WPA and WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access). Any equipment manufactured after November 2003 that bears the Wi-Fi compatible logo must implement WPA security.

Implementing either WEP or WPA security involves the the creation of a passphrase or passkey (your router's documentation may refer to it as either, and confusingly sometimes use both terms interchangeably). WEP uses hexadecimal characters (0-9, A-E), and most routers will either let you work out a character set yourself, or generate one based on a passphrase of your choosing. WPA-PSK (the most common home/small office use of WPA) utilises just a passphrase, although the underlying technology actually makes it harder to crack externally.

For most home/small office applications, WPA/WPA2 should be plenty of security -- it'll solidly stop people either deliberately or inadvertently pinching your broadband connection, and should keep your data relatively safe. If you're more worried, however, you can implement further security measures, such as locking down access only to the MAC addresses of your known wireless adaptors. If you're likely to want to let others use your wireless network from time to time, you'll need to add their MAC addresses as and when the need arises.

With security firmly in place, you can now configure each of your client PCs to connect to the router. Windows has a wireless configuration service -- it's the utility that'll pop up the information balloon to let you know when nearby wireless networks are in range -- but many wireless adaptors come with their own connection utilities which often (quite safely) disable the inbuilt Windows connection service. If you've left your SSID broadcasting, you should be able to "see" the router as soon as your wireless card comes online, at which point it's just a case of choosing to connect to the router and entering the passphrase you created. If your SSID is hidden, you'll need to manually add a connection utilising the hidden SSID in order to gain access to the network.

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Igor posted a comment   

I have an Apple Airport Extreme Router and understand that it uses WPA/WPA2 security. How does this security compre with WEP. If WEP is better, can I use it with this router? If so, how do I do it?
Thanks.

 

Stevo posted a comment   

A really good article.
Having spent ages trying to connect two laptops and a PC to an Apple Airport, I've found that some of the problems I've experienced are within the security settings. One laptop is set with WPA-PSK, another is set with WPA2... it's worth following these steps closely!
I think that WPA2 is very resource-hungry, slowing the smaller laptop to a miserable speed.
I'll revert to WPA, starting with the router then re-establishing each pc with the same settings. It's BOUND to work...
As somebody once quoted: if it ain't broke, fiddle with it until it is, then fix it.

 

Davo posted a comment   

Can anyone reccomend an easy to use wireless router that will connect to my PC via my DSL modem.
I need one that plugs in and works without the hours and hours on the phone to support who cant help me set up their on product. please help

 

Davo posted a comment   

Dont buy Netgear. You need to be an IT expert to install it and when you have difficulties the support cant help either. After 2.5 hours they suggested I return the product to the point of purchase. An absolutely useless product for the average user and useless support.

 

DPogo posted a comment   

The wireless connection for WiFi at my work shows connection and connectivity on my laptop but my browser (firefox) wont connect to any page, I keep getting the "Address Not Found" screen saying firefox can't find the server. Is it my laptop or my business' WiFi settings?

 

vicky posted a comment   

thanx budd

 

stilldizzybizzylizzy1964 posted a comment   

THE ARTICLE WAS EASY TO READ, THANK YOU.
I AM ABOUT TO SET MY FRIENDS LAPTOP UP TO THE INTERNET. THIS IS THE FIRST TIME THAT I WILL DO THIS AS WHEN MY PC WAS SETUP TO THE INTERNET A FRIEND DID THIS FOR ME AS I DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO AS I WAS A NEW USER. NOW THIS IS THE SAME FOR MY FRIEND.
MY FRIEND WANTS TO GO WIRELESS BUT YOUR ARTICLE STATES THAT 2 COMPUTERS ARE NEEDED?
COULD YOU PLEASE TELL ME WHAT I MUST DO TO SET MY FRIEND UP WITH HER INTERNET CONNECTION?
THE ISP WILL BE BIGPOND.
IF I CANNOT SETUP WIRELESS THEN WHAT DO I NEED FOR ADSL?BROADBAND, EQUIPMENT ETC?
PLEASE I WANT TO GET THIS RIGHT FOR MY FRIEND AND PROVE TO MYSELF THAT I CAN DO THIS.
I WILL BE MOST GRATEFUL FOR ANY INFORMATION THAT YOU CAN SUPPLY TO ME REGARDING MY QUESTIONS.
THANK YOU ONCE AGAIN.
KIND REGARDS.
CHEERS!!!!!
Elizabeth Bruinsma {aka} Liz
PS. Not sure if this is my username but its the only one I have written down in my Computer Diary logbook.

 

TonyT posted a comment   

Thank goodness for a simple self explanatory networking setup
Thank you




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