Article ID : 00009476 / Last Modified : 02/08/2018

What Is Wireless Encryption and Why Is It Used?

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Wireless encryption secures your wireless network with an authentication protocol. It requires a password or network key when a user or device tries to connect. If your wireless network isn't secure, unauthorized users could access your network and obtain personal information or use your internet connection for malicious or illegal activity. Your network speed or performance may decrease if people use your network without your knowledge.

The following information provides details about different types of wireless encryptions that are commonly supported on most Wi-Fi® enabled devices, adapters, and routers.

Note:

  • Not all encryption types are supported on all routers and adapters. Check your device manual for supported encryption protocols.
  • The default encryption key may be located on the bottom of your router or in the manual, depending on the router manufacturer.
  • You can locate the encryption key when you log into the router setup page, if you have created your own encryption key. Contact the router manufacturer for assistance if you still can't locate it.

Wired Encryption Privacy or Wired Encryption Protocol (WEP)

Encryption Type

  • 64-bit: This configuration requires a ten character password when you use a hexadecimal (zero to nine and A-F) digits or eight characters when you use ASCII characters.
  • 128-bit: This configuration requires a 26 character password when you use hexadecimal digits or 14 characters when you use ASCII characters.

Advantages

  • Easy to configure.
  • Widely supported security system.
  • Secures your wireless network better than no encryption at all.

Disadvantages

  • Not fully secure.
  • Other encryption protocols are more secure.

Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA and WPA2)

Encryption Type

  • TKIP: Temporal Key Integrity Protocol
  • PSK: Pre-shared Key or Personal mode. 256-bit encryption that requires a 64 hexadecimal digit password or a 8 - 63 ASCII character passphrase.
  • EAP: Extensible Authentication Protocol

Advantages

  • Easy to configure.
  • Strong encryption.
  • Easy to manage.

Disadvantages

  • Not supported by all devices.

IMPORTANT: There are multiple vulnerabilities found in the Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) wireless LAN communication protocol.

Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS)

Advantages

  • Automatically configures a wireless network with a network name (SSID) and a strong WPA security key for authentication and data encryption.
  • Supports various Wi-Fi certified 802.11 products, ranging from access points, wireless adapters, Wi-Fi phones, and other electronic devices.
  • You don't need to know the SSID or security key or passphrase when you connect into WPS enabled devices.
  • The security key or passphrase is randomly generated so no one can guess it.
  • No predictable passphrases or long sequences of hexadecimal characters to enter.

Disadvantages

  • Ad-Hoc mode where wireless devices communicate directly to each other without an access point is not supported.
  • All of the Wi-Fi devices on the network must be WPS certified or compatible, otherwise you won't be able to take advantage of the ease in securing the network.
  • Difficult to add a non-WPS client device to the network because of the long sequences of hexadecimal characters generated by the WPS technology.
  • WPS technology is fairly new, so not every manufacturer supports it.

How Do I Use WPS

  • PIN (Personal Identification Number) Method: A PIN has to be taken from either a sticker label or the Web interface of the WPS device. This PIN is entered in the access point or client WPS device to make the connection.
  • PBC (Push button configuration) Method: Simply push a button, either a physical or virtual button, on both WPS devices to make the connection.