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Wireless Authentication and Encryption Basics


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#1 boethe

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Posted 04 July 2010 - 02:50 PM

I am trying to learn about how to secure my home wireless network. I have been running unsecured until today (I know stupid). I have to get my wife's laptop connected, my work laptop and a Brother printer.

I was successful at switching it to use a password but I don't completely understand how I did it.

I see from reading online that there is a difference between authentication and encryption but on my wireless router settings where is only a place to set encryption type. I cannot find a separate setting for authentication. I set it to WEP and entered a five letter word. I was able to get the two laptops and the printer to work by entering the five letter word when prompted but did not completely understand what I was doing.

I thought WEP was encryption and it is labeled encryption in my router settings. Is is possible it is using the same word for authentication and encryption?

Edited by boethe, 05 July 2010 - 07:38 AM.


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#2 Retirednow

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Posted 05 July 2010 - 01:31 AM

Here is a good starting point.
http://www.pcstats.com/articleview.cfm?articleID=1428

Some basics. One thing you must always do when you are working with you router configs is to be connected to your router with an ethernet cable (hardwired, not wireless).
The first thing is to setup a passord for logging on to your router. The above link will help you.

Your router is where you set up the encryption. You type in a word, words or a phrase and the router generates a set of keys.
On your pc you will use one of the keys to enable a connection to your router via a wireless connection, basically authentication.

Hope this helps.

#3 boethe

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Posted 05 July 2010 - 07:55 AM

Thank you for suggesting the link. I read through and also the related article they reference on securing networks. I think I am getting the basic concepts but have some particular issues with the actual interfaces on my computers.

As mentioned my router does not have settings labeled authentication but has settings labeled encryption which include choices like WEP, WPA, and AES.

But let me focus the question on the interface on my wife's laptop. It is using Windows Vista with Service Pack 2. The wireless setting tab for my wireless SSID has two drop down selection fields, on labeled security type and one labeled encryption.

What currently works for me is to have security type set to "no authentication (open)" and encryption set to "WEP"; with this setting there is a box labeled network security key. Here I enter the five letter phrase I put under WEP encryption on my router. This works. I can also get my work computer and brother printer to work though each has different interfaces (they both justed asked for pass word and I entered the five characters and did not explore any complexity in their interface.

Now back to my wife's laptop. Instead of setting security type to "no authentication (open)", I could select "shared", "WPA-personal", "WPA2-personal", "WPA-enterprise", "WPA2-enterprise", and "802.1x". If I select "WPA-personal" (which seems the next logical place to try after WEP), the encryption choice box now becomes "TKIP" or "AES". Confused yet?

One more question back on WEP. The articles make it sound like I could choose 64 bit WEP or 128 bit WEP, but there is no such choice in the Vista interface described above. With the WEP setting as described above the pass phrase seems to be at most 34 characters.

Thanks for you time tutoring me on this topic.

#4 boethe

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Posted 05 July 2010 - 11:28 AM

Ok, I was able to connect my wife's laptop using WPA with AES using a 8 character key. Will now have to see if I can get my work computer and printer connected.

The exact setting on the laptop which uses Vista service pack 2, is as follows:

Security Type: WPA-personal
Encryption Type: AES
Network Security Key: [eight character word]

Setting Security Type to WPA2-personal did not work. This is still mysterious to me.

#5 boethe

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Posted 05 July 2010 - 03:20 PM

Was able to connect work laptop and Brother printing. My work laptop is running XP professional service pack 2. Both the work laptop and printing just asked for password and connected when I entered the new 8 character key entered under AES on my router. They gave no indication of what encryption protocol they were running so I assume they automatically configured to match the routers settings.

So with that I believe I have reconfigured my wireless setup to be using AES encryption which I understand is the best available so I think I am done. If you think I have done anything incorrectly or you can shed any light on the mysteries of the interfaces please let me know.

#6 smak451

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Posted 20 July 2010 - 12:49 AM

Was able to connect work laptop and Brother printing. My work laptop is running XP professional service pack 2. Both the work laptop and printing just asked for password and connected when I entered the new 8 character key entered under AES on my router. They gave no indication of what encryption protocol they were running so I assume they automatically configured to match the routers settings.

So with that I believe I have reconfigured my wireless setup to be using AES encryption which I understand is the best available so I think I am done. If you think I have done anything incorrectly or you can shed any light on the mysteries of the interfaces please let me know.


I do know that some older cards do not support WPA2, that might have been your problem. NEVER use WEP, unless you've somehow timewarped back into the stone age.

#7 CaveDweller2

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Posted 20 July 2010 - 03:08 PM

You want to use WPA. You can use letters, numbers, symbols and spaces with WPA. So just make up a 4 - 5 word sentence and use that as your PW.

WEP is easily broken. Just takes time. WPA is much more secure. If you have XP with SP2 or better for an OS you can use WPA.

What is the make and model of your router? There might be a firmware update that will allow you to use WPA2 which is even better.

Hope this helps thumbup.gif

Associate in Applied Science - Network Systems Management - Trident Technical College





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