Wireless Security

  Seadog 00:58 24 May 05
Locked

I have a Belkin wireless router connected to a cable modem for internet access. Wirelessly connected to this are my computer (a Shuttle with built in wireless) and my sons computer with a belkin PCI card. Occasionally I also use my laptop with a pcmcia wireless card on the system. The router has a security feature which says I can enable encryption (WPA-PSK, WEP etc., etc.,) that will stop others using my wireless network. As I use this only as an internet connection is this necessary? I did enable encryption as an experiment (WPA-PSK) from my computer but it wiped out my sons connection and with no instructions how to access the router from his computer I had to reset it back to disabled. Anyone of you geniuses able to help so that I can enable encryption or is it not worth it?

  John-259217 02:59 24 May 05

"Is it worth it?" This depends on how paranoid you are.

Assuming your router and modem are constantly online then your internet connection is available for anybody with a wireless equiped pc to use.

If your in a detatched house set in its own grounds this may be unlikely!

If not then anyone else within range could put it to all sorts of use which may reflect badly on you. For example if your isp limits your monthly usage they may be unhappy if the lad next door uploads and downloads vast collections of music files on a P2P network. There`s also the unpleasant possibility that an unknown user could be sending and receiving decidely illegal material, as the account holder you may end up with some difficult explaining to do.

Having probably worried the living daylights out of you I should say that in my opinion the risks of either of the above occurring should be judged in a rational manner. If you live in an area where there are lots of businesses or maybe computer students from a local university all carrying laptops then you may be at greater risk than someone in the above mentioned detatched house (I`m not having a dig at students here it`s just that they often have the knowledge and equipment to "borrow" an open internet connection).

I would suggest using encryption, it`s not one hundred percent secure, but it will deter most people.

As you discovered, it takes a little effort to set-up. The code you set in the router must be sent by any pc that wants to connect. If your computers are using windows XP`s built in connection manager then you should be able to do this by right clicking the wireless connector icon, selecting view available networks. Your router should appear as an encrypted network and the passcode will be requested when you click connect.

If you are using earlier versions of Windows, or the wireless adapters own software to manage the connection then a different procedure may be required.

  John-259217 04:16 24 May 05

I did forget to mention that earlier wireless adapters may not support the WPA encryption standards. You will need to check this for your systems. All types should support WEP.

  Seadog 08:14 24 May 05

Thanks for that. But if I set it up on my computer, how do we then access the internet. You say that the code I set up must be sent by any computer wanting to use the connection. So, each time we want to connect on either computer, do we have to to right click on the network icon or do we only have to do this once? (each time a computer is switched on or each time we want to use the internet?) If my son is doing school work he is on and off the internet so to speak several times an hour and having to enter a code or password is going to meet with the usual teenager grunts and moans!
Sorry to be a pain but this sort of thing is a bit above me when it's not explained enough in the manual.

  Seadog 08:17 24 May 05

Oh yes, both computers have Xp and the wireless adapters supposedly support WPA if I have read correctly, although WEP sounds easier to set up than WPA and would probably suffice for where I live.

  John-259217 09:38 24 May 05

Windows (or the adapter software) will remember the passphrase you entered and automatically connect to the network when you start-up.

If you enable encryption on your router from a computer connecting wirelessly, it will lose its link until you enter the matching key. Because of this you would normally do the router set-up with a computer connected with a cable.

The first time Windows discovers an encrypted network it will normally display a dialogue box asking if you want to connect to it. If you do it will provide an entry box for you to type in the passcode which is retained by the computer.

Once it`s set-up you won`t be aware of its operation but correctly matching the passphrase on the initial set-up can sometimes prove more tricky. This is because there are different formats for the passphrase. How the router requires it may differ from the way Windows expects to see it.

Trial and error usually overcomes most problems though.

  Seadog 13:17 24 May 05

I have tried to use both WPA and WEP this morning and it's easy to set up the password but when trying to re-connect and typing the password into the offered box, I get an error message telling me the password/phrase needs to be in ascii format............anyway I will keep trying. Thanks for the help.

  John-259217 15:36 24 May 05

As an example, older Belkin routers only supported WEP and allowed the key to be input in hex digit pairs giving something along these lines:-

2a.3d.44.56.d1

for a 64-bit key manual key.

Windows then complained that an ascii format key was needed - in otherwords a password which it could then translate into numerical form itself.

I find that entering the code as

0x2a3d4456d1

may work, the 0x indicating that a hex code is being entered.

Using 64-bit automatically on the router would prompt for a password but Windows would still baulk at connecting.

All the equipment from different manufacturers behaves differently, hence the "trial and error" I mentioned before.

Good Luck

John

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