Home Technology What is a Network Security Key and Why is It Important?

What is a Network Security Key and Why is It Important?

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Wireless networks are a very convenient way to connect to the internet and use it. Before wireless internet, most people could only access the internet through a wired connection. This would typically mean their home or work desktop computer. Over time, homes stopped using dial-up internet and switched to faster forms. Cable internet, for example, is high-speed internet delivered through the same infrastructure as Cox customer service number. Today, most homes have access to fast speeds and home wifi. Wifi-enabled devices like smartphones, tablets, and PCs can connect to them. And network security keys help to keep them safe.  

This blog offers a brief explanation of network security keys and how they work.  

What Exactly Is a Network Security Key?

A wireless network does not discriminate as to what device connects to it. As long as the device supports wifi and is within range, it can theoretically connect to a wireless network. Obviously, this poses a problem. You probably don’t want to wifi that you pay for with your neighbors and anyone else passing by. More than that, cybercriminals can easily infiltrate an open network. Once in, what they do is anyone’s guess. But the chances are good it won’t be something legal.  

Security keys address this problem. A network security key allows only authorized devices to connect to the wifi. Only a wifi device with the right key can connect to it and access the internet. It may not be the most robust of security measures. But a network security key definitely helps to keep out unwanted devices and people. Only someone who has the key and is within physical range can access it.  

What Types of Security Keys Exist? 

A network key may seem like a simple matter of setting a password. But is hardly that simple. There are different types of security keys. And they work very differently from each other. The three most common types are:  

WPA2 

WPA2 security keys are the most common type of network keys when it comes to modern routers. This is a robust security measure that is much harder to crack. Especially compared to the other two common security key types. WPA2 encryption is more or less standard with most home routers these days.  

WPA 

WPA is an older form of WPA2 network security. WPA encryption scrambles information, and can also detect changes to the security key. WPA ensures only a device with the right credentials can connect to the network. The key works across a range of devices and wireless equipment. But it may not work with older equipment and wifi adapters.  

WEP 

WEP keys are one of the oldest forms of wireless network security. The WEP is a 40-bit key that helps encrypt information shared between a router and computer. WEP encryption, however, is significantly outdated. That means it has the highest risk of being compromised.  

How to Locate Your Network Key? 

Don’t know what your network key is? This question is not as uncommon as people would think. There are two very frequent situations that could prompt you to need your network security key. The first one is typically when you set up your wifi for the first time and want to customize the password. The second, and even more common, is when people simply forget their old wifi password.  

In the first situation, all you have to do is check under your router or gateway modem. The sticker with the default key may also be behind the router instead of underneath it. The default key may be under a password, WPA, or wireless key label. All you have to do is locate it and enter it. Once that’s done you can change the default password to one of your choosing.  

In the second case, you may need to check a computer that is already connected to the network. On a Windows 10 PC, you should first check the Taskbar and open the network and internet settings menu. Navigate from this to the Network and Sharing Center. Select the network and open its properties. The password will originally be masked. But look for a small “show characters” button to reveal the cleartext. 

Why Is Setting Up Strong Keys Important? 

The network key is a security pass for your wireless network. We all know why weak security is a big risk. A weak network security key could be easy to crack. And once anyone cracks it, you cannot stop them from connecting to the network as long as the network key is still the same? The answer? Use strong alphanumeric passwords. Preferably, ones that include symbols, upper case letters, lower case letters, and at least 12-15 characters. These are much tougher to crack. And they remain resistant to brute force attacks as well.   

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