Understanding Wireless Internet Security Settings
The different types of wireless internet security settings can be a little confusing at first glance. This article will give you a little background on the main types of wireless internet security settings and why you should try to use WPA2 and a MAC filter where possible.
WEP, WPA and WPA2
When connecting to wireless internet routers you may have noticed the terms WEP, WPA and WPA2, but what exactly do these acronyms refer to?
WEP: Wired Equivalent Privacy was the first protocol implemented to make Wi-Fi networks safe and secure. It was designed to be a strong type of encryption which would keep wireless network user's data safe. However, it was discovered that WEP was flawed and not particularly difficult to hack.
Many Wi-Fi users are unaware that WEP is vulnerable and still have it enabled on their wireless networks. This situation is not helped by the fact that some wireless router manufactures still ship their devices with WEP set as default when the routers are capable of more secure encryption.
WPA: Wi-Fi Protected Access was designed to replace WEP and make wireless networks more secure. This more advanced type of encryption was developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance and introduced in 2003.
While far more secure than WEP, it is still possible for a skilled and determined hacker to break WPA encryption. When it was introduced it was believed that WPA was extremely secure. However in 2008 it was found that WPA could indeed be hacked; as it was based on the same encryption principles as WEP it was found that it could be hacked using similar, but far more advanced, types of attack.
While it is possible to hack WPA, it's extremely difficult and requires a long period of time, a great degree of knowledge and a powerful computer. For ordinary home users, WPA is generally considered to be secure enough.
WPA2: If your devices support WPA2 this is the type of encryption you should be using, it's the most up-to-date and secure type of wireless network protection. It uses different encryption principles to both WEP and WPA. WPA2 has proven to be extremely resilient to hacking attacks; while it is theoretically possible to hack it would take tremendous computing power and a very long time, not to mention an extremely skilled hacker.
If you want your wireless internet network to be extra secure you can set up MAC filtering. This basically sets up a list of devices which have permission to access your network, if a device isn't on the list it can't access your network.
The list is made up of the MAC keys of each device. A MAC key is a 48 character long sting of numbers and letters which is unique to every Wi-Fi capable device, kind of like a fingerprint.
The Wi-Fi Alliance
The Wi-Fi Alliance is an organisation with the goal of promoting and improving wireless networking technologies. It is run by a group of companies which have an interest in standardising and improving wireless networking technologies. The Wi-Fi Alliance are responsible for developing the Wi-Fi technology and security methods in use all over the world.