When was the last time you had a wireless router installed for your home network? Many users are still accessing the internet wirelessly using routers that are five years old or older. For the most part, we tend to set them up when we purchase them, then leave them alone to let them work on their own. Sure, every so often you have to reboot the router in the event of a glitch, but most of the time we hardly think about them.
However, with the latest round of malware, ransomware, and phishing attacks making headlines, there has been a renewed focus on securing our online infrastructure. Do you remember if you set up encryption on your wireless network when you set it up? If you don’t need a password to access your wireless network, then you need to get this set up as soon as possible.
What is Encryption and Why is It Important?
Encryption is the process of converting information or data into code, especially to prevent unauthorized access. Wireless network encryption ensures that only people you want to have access to your wireless network will be able to access it. Without a password guarding your network, you’re essentially inviting your neighbors to steal your internet access for free. This can lead to slow speeds and, possibly, much worse.
As time has passed, the standard for encrypting a wireless network has changed. Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) was the standard a few years ago, but this encryption standard was cracked by hackers and is now easily broken. Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) was next, but this too had problems. The current standard, WPA2, isn’t perfect, but it is the best available standard to protect your home wireless network. There are actually two different WPA2 protocols:
- WPA2-PSK (TKIP) uses the modern WPA2 standard with older TKIP encryption. This isn’t secure, and is only a good idea if you have older devices that can’t connect to the better protocol, WPA2-PSK (AES).
- WPA2-PSK (AES) is the most secure option. It uses WPA2, the latest Wi-Fi encryptions protocol.
Note: On devices with less confusing interfaces, the option marked “WPA2” or “WPA2-PSK” will probably use AES, as that is the common-sense choice.
Setting Up Encryption on Your Wireless Network
First, you’ll want to check to see if your wireless network is using encryption in the first place. An easy way to do this is to use your smartphone. Open the wireless network settings and find your network’s SSID (or Service Set Identifier) in the list – if the name has a padlock symbol next to it, then you have at least a basic level of encryption for your network. Next, check to see if the network configuration tells you what kind of security standard is being used for your network. If you see anything besides WPA2, you should change the encryption settings or buy a new wireless router for the latest protection. Make sure you use a strong password for your network for maximum protection against thieves and hackers (and those freeloading neighbors!).
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