Article ID : 00163888 / Last Modified : 08/11/2017

What is Wireless LAN Encryption and why is it used?

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Wireless LAN encryption is used to secure your wireless network with an authentication protocol that requires a password or network key when a user or device tries to connect. If your wireless network is not secured with some type of encryption, unauthorised users could access your network and obtain personal information or use your Internet connection for malicious or illegal activity. Also, your network speed or performance may decrease if people are using your network without your knowledge.

The following information provides details about different Wireless LAN Encryption types, such as WEP, WPA and WPS, that are commonly supported on most Wi-Fi enabled devices, adapters and routers.

NOTES:

  • Older WLAN routers and adapters may not support all encryption types. Consult the documentation provided with the wireless device for supported encryption protocols.
  • Depending on the manufacturer of the WLAN router, the default encryption key may be located on the bottom of your router, or in the instruction manual.
  • If you created your own encryption key, you may be able to locate it by logging into the router setup page. If you are still unable to locate the encryption key, contact the manufacturer of the WLAN router for assistance.

WEP: Wired Encryption Privacy or Wired Encryption Protocol

  • Encryption Type:
    • 64-bit: This configuration requires a 10 character password when using hexadecimal (0-9 and A-F) digits or 8 characters when using ASCII characters.
    • 128-bit: This configuration requires a 26 character password when using hexadecimal digits or 14 characters when using 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.

WPA and WPA2: Wi-Fi Protected Access

  • 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 to 63 ASCII character passphrase.
    • EAP: Extensible Authentication Protocol
  • Advantages:
    • Easy to configure.
    • Strong encryption.
    • Easy to manage.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Not supported by all devices.

WPS: Wi-Fi Protected Setup

  • Advantages:
    • WPS can be used to automatically configure a wireless network with a network name (SSID) and a strong WPA security key for authentication and data encryption.
    • WPS is designed to support various Wi-Fi certified 802.11 products, ranging from access points, wireless adapters, Wi-Fi phones, and other consumer electronic devices.
    • You do not need to know the SSID or security key or passphrase when connecting 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 will not 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.
    • This technology is fairly new, so not every manufacturer supports WPS.
  • 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.