How to Encrypt Your Wireless Network

It's important to use the correct encryption setting

What to Know

  • Locate the security settings in the router's administrator console. Change the encryption to WPA2-PSK or WPA3-SAE. Set a strong password.
  • Check the current encryption settings: Go to the device network settings and looks for the padlock icon next to the name of the network.

Encryption is an important step in securing your Wi-Fi network. Your router may support several wireless encryption methods, but if it uses an outdated method, attackers won't need to know your password to access your system. Learn how to enable encryption and how to check your system's encryption mode.

How to Enable Encryption on Your Router

With a little poking around you should have no problem finding the encryption settings for your router.

These steps are general guidelines. Every router is a little different, so you'll have to adapt the directions to fit your specific router.

  1. Log in to your router's administrator console. This is done by accessing the router's IP address as a URL, such as http://192.168.1.1 or http://10.0.0.1. You'll then be prompted to enter the router's username and password.

    If you don't know this information, check the router manufacturer's website for help or reset your router to restore the factory default settings.

  2. Locate the wireless security settings. Your router might call this section Wireless Security, Wireless Network, or something similar. In this example, the settings are in Basic Setup > Wireless > Security.

    Comtrend wireless security settings
  3. Change the encryption option to WPA2-PSK or WPA3-SAE, if available. You might see an Enterprise setting. The enterprise version is intended for corporate environments and requires a complex setup process.

    If WPA2 (or the newer WPA3 standard) isn't an option, you may have to upgrade the router's firmware or buy a new wireless router.

  4. Make a strong password. (Here are some examples of strong passwords.) This is what users enter when they need to get on your Wi-Fi network, so it should not be easy to guess or easy to remember.

    Consider storing the complex password in a password manager so that you'll always have easy access to it.

  5. Select Save or Apply to submit the changes. The router might have to reboot for the settings to take effect.

  6. Reconnect your wireless devices by selecting the correct network name and entering the new password in each device's Wi-Fi settings page.

You should periodically check your router manufacturer's website for firmware updates that they might release to fix security vulnerabilities associated with your router. The updated firmware might also contain new security features.

How to Check If Your Router Uses Encryption

You can use your phone or tablet to see if a wireless network is using encryption. All you need to know is the name of the network.

  1. Open your device's settings. There's usually a Settings app on the device that you can tap.

  2. Locate the network by going to Network & Internet > Wi-Fi on Android or Wi-Fi on iOS.

  3. Do you see a padlock icon next to the network? If so, it uses at least the basic form of encryption, possibly the strongest type.

  4. However, even if basic security is enabled, it could be using an outdated form of encryption. See if the connection shows the encryption type. You might see WEP, WPA, or WPA2, or WPA3.

    Android Wi-Fi settings

Why You Need Encryption and Why WEP Is Weak

If your wireless network is open with no encryption enabled, you're inviting neighbors and other freeloaders to steal the bandwidth that you're paying good money for. So, if you're experiencing slow internet speeds, a bunch of folks might be using your wireless network.

There was a time when WEP was the standard for securing wireless networks, but it was eventually cracked and is now easily bypassed by novice hackers using cracking tools available on the internet.

After WEP came WPA. WPA had flaws, too, and was replaced by WPA2, which isn't perfect but is currently the best available offering for protecting home-based wireless networks. Next came WPA3.

If you set up your Wi-Fi router years ago, you could be using one of the old, hackable encryption schemes such as WEP, and should consider changing to WPA3.

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