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Wireless Encryption and Authentication

Wireless encryption and authentication is at the heart of wireless router security. This feature will scramble your data and only allow laptops with the correct key specified. Better the wireless encryption and authentication technology, the more difficult a hacker will find authenticating and unscrambling the encrypted data. When you assign your wireless router with a key and assign an encryption method, it will scramble the data and only a laptop with the same key can unscramble that data. This would ensure a hacker can not access the data, and if they do they will not be able to see it as it’s scrambled and protected by a key that only you know. My advice is to use the strongest wireless encryption and authentication method your router supports, which I will show you further into this topic.

Wireless router's support multiple wireless encryption and authentication methods. Have a read below on my recommendation to which encryption method you should use.


WEP (Wireless Equivalent Protocol)

WEP is a weak wireless encryption protocol. WEP is easy to crack. If this is your only wireless encryption protocol, then I suppose having WEP is better than not having anything. If you have other options, then WEP wireless encryption should not be considered. This encryption method can be hacked within 3 minutes. However if this is your only option, then do use this.


WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access)

WPA was created due to the weakness within the WEP wireless encryption protocol. This method uses a feature called TKIP, which makes it more secure than WEP. However this also has some weaknesses. It is vulnerable to certain attacks such as DOS and dictionary attacks.

I will be showing you how to configure WPA since it most commonly supported wireless encryption method on old and new Laptops as of today.

log on to the router.

  1. Open Internet Explorer and type in the address bar. This is the default IP address of my Linksys wireless router.
  2. A login box will appear where the default user name and password is “admin”. So please type this in for user name and then password as well.

Note: If you’re not using a Linksys router, your default address will possibly be different and your username and password will differ as well. If you do not know these then read your router’s user guide, or visit the router’s website. If you do use a Linksys router and the default user name and password does not work, then you may need to reset the router. This is done by holding down the reset button on the back of the router for about 10 seconds.

Click here for Netgear Manuals

Click here for D-Link Manuals

Click here for Belkin Manuals


Write down the SSID

  1. In the Wireless > Basic Wireless Settings menu you will see the SSID name. The SSID differentiates one wireless network from another. It is the name to your wireless network. Change the name from the default to something of your own. It can be anything, for example "Home Router" or "Bubbles". However do not leave the name of the make or model such as "Netgear", as this gives a hacker key information as to what kind of router it is.
  2. Set Security Mode to WPA Personal.
  3. Set the WPA algorithm to TKIP.
  4. Type a key in the WPA Shared Key with a length between 8 and 32 characters. A longer key and one that is not a word from the dictionary is strongly advised as it is more difficult to crack. Write down the key as you will need it later to connect to the router from your Laptop.

Click Save Settings


secure a wireless router image 1


Your computer will now be disconnected from the router as it now requires you to use the key and WPA wireless encryption method to connect to it from your laptop. You will now need to configure this on your laptop which I will show you next.


Configuring WPA security in Windows XP with SP3

I will be showing you how to configure wireless using windows built in wireless feature. If you have third party software on your laptop to setup wireless you can use this instead if you like, it is personal preference what you use.

From your Windows XP laptop go to: Start, Control Panel, Network Connections.

Double click the wireless network connection icon. The wireless network connections setting page appears. This window shows you the wireless networks that are within range of your laptop.


scanning for a wireless network


You should now be able to see your wireless SSID appear with a signal indicating the signal strength. In my SSID I used the name Guest, and as you can see it is the first one in the list. The other ones are external signals. These will be most likely be my neighbour's opposite my house.

Now double click the Guest wireless network. This will now ask you for a key, which you specified in your router earlier. Now specify your key you used to configure your wireless encryption key in your router.

If this does not connect successfully, then you may need to select the change advanced settings on the left hand side. Select the Wireless Networks tab. Now either select the Guest (the SSID name I used on my Router) network if this is shown within the Preferred Networks area, or click on the add button. Now fill in the below within the wireless properties;

Network_name (SSID): Guest – for you it will be the name you specified.

Network Authentication: WPA-PSK

Data Encryption: TKIP

Network key: type in your key, used earlier on your router

Confirm Network key: Type your key in again.


You are now done, select OK at the bottom of the dialogue, and select OK again to close the Wireless Network connections dialogue.


wireless network connection properties


wireless network properties image 2


Your laptop should now connect securely to your router using the WPA wireless encryption protocol. Although further security needs configuring, which I will cover further into this topic.


WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2)

This wireless encryption method is the strongest, as it uses a feature called AES to do its wireless encryption, which replaces TKIP encryption used in WPA. However because AES requires a dedicated chip some laptops will not support this as it requires a network card that would support this encryption type.

If your router supports WPA2/AES wireless encryption, then it's worth purchasing a network card for your laptop that also supports this technology, if it does not already.


If your laptop and router do support using wireless encryption and authentication protocols WPA2/AES then change your router settings and laptop settings to use WPA2/AES instead of WPA. Follow the above instructions, but this time, you will be using WPA2 as your authentication and AES as your encryption.

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