Enable WEP or WPA Encryption to Protect Your Wireless Network

Scramble Your Data So That Others Can't Intercept It

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It is convenient to sit on the couch or lounge in a bed across the house from the wireless access point or router and be connected to the internet. As you enjoy this convenience, keep in mind that your data is being beamed through the airwaves in all directions. If you can receive it from where you are, so can just about anyone else within the same range.

In order to protect your data from snooping or prying eyes, you should encrypt, or scramble, it so that nobody else can read it.

Most recent wireless equipment comes with both Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) or (WPA2) encryption schemes that you can enable in your home.

WEP Encryption

WEP was the encryption scheme included with the first generation of wireless networking equipment. It was found to contain some serious flaws that make it relatively easy to crack, or break into, so it is not the best form of security for your wireless network. Nevertheless, it is better than no protection, so if you are using an older router that supports only WEP, activate it.

WPA Encryption

WPA was later rolled out to provide significantly stronger wireless data encryption than WEP. However, in order to use WPA, all the devices on the network need to be configured for WPA. If any of the devices in the chain of communication are configured for WEP, the WPA devices typically fall back to the lesser encryption so that all the devices can still communicate.

WPA2 Encryption

WPA2 is a newer, stronger form of encryption shipping with current network routers. When you have the choice, select WPA2 encryption.

Tip for Telling Whether Your Network Is Encrypted

If you aren't sure whether you enabled encryption on your home network router, open the Wi-Fi settings section of your smartphone while you are at home and view the nearby networks in range of the phone.

Identify your network by its name—it's almost certainly the one the phone is currently using. If there is a padlock icon next to its name, it is protected by some form of encryption. If there is no padlock, that network has no encryption. 

You can use this same tip on any equipment that displays a list of nearby networks. For example, Mac computers display a list of nearby networks when you click the Wi-Fi symbol at the top of the screen.

Enabling Encryption

Different routers have different methods for activating the encryption on the router. Refer to the owner's manual or website for your wireless router or access point to determine exactly how to enable and configure encryption for your device. However, in general, these are the steps you take:

  1. Log in as an administrator of the wireless router from your computer. Usually, you open a browser window and type in the address of your router. A common address is http://192.168.0.1, but check your manual or the router manufacturer's website to be sure.
  2. Find the Wireless Security or Wireless Network settings page.
  3. Look at the encryption options that are available. Choose WPA2 if it is supported, if not, choose WPA or WEP, in that order.
  4. Create a network password in the field provided.
  1. Click Save or Reply and turn the router off and back on for the settings to take effect.

Once you enable encryption on your router or access point, you need to configure your wireless network devices with the proper information to access the network.

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