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Wireless Security (WPA encryption set up)

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Wi-Fi protected access or WPA is one of the most common ways to protect your home network from unwanted users.  Along with its new version WPA2, both introduce multiple options for configuring the security of your home or small office.  It may seem like adding all these different options would be confusing but there's no need to worry, as we will cover the different options and discuss the reasons why each option should be used in just a moment. 

First we will discuss the different kinds of authentication types that can be provided by WPA security. WPA-802.1x which is a form of a certificate authenticator that only allows clients that posses a valid certificate to access the network via the access point.  The certificate would have been provided earlier by the server. This form of network security would be used on medium to large size offices.

For you at home users we suggest using WPA-PSK. This security known as Wi-Fi Protected Access with pre-shared keys allow easy setup of a secure WLAN at home.  This uses a pass phrase which is between 8-63 characters.  This phrase is entered into the configuration utility of a users work station or in many cases laptop as well as into the wireless access point.  We will go over step by step configuration instructions next.

SETTING UP AN ACCESS POINT

Before we get started it is in your best interest to read through the configuration manual for all the hardware that came with your wireless access point as many access points offer different settings and options in order to setup a wireless network using WPA security settings. We will be showing you how to setup your access point using the web browser based utility as many of the current models follow this format. This can be accomplished by entering the IP address for your access point in your browsers URL.

 Most routers or access points use one of the following IP address.

 192.168.1.1

192.168.1.254.

 If neither of these work refer to the guide that came with your router or access point. It will look something like the picture below.

network.png

 

Next you will need to browse to access points Network Naming page also known as the SSID (Service Set Identifier) page. Be sure that you are selecting wireless for the network. This is where you will name your network which will later be used on your desktop or laptop stations to connect to the network. After naming your network you will need to navigate to the access point's  security section.  This page should offer multiple settings such as the image below shows.

settings.png

 

When setting your security settings you want to select WPA-PSK and enter the exact secured passphrase that you will be setting in your desktop or laptop later.  Remember that both the access point and the system you are hoping to use on the network must have this exact same passphrase.  This may be referred to as the network key or appear after selecting the WPA-PSK setting followed by TKIP. You will want to enter your passphrase there.  This will be used by windows in the next steps.

 

SETTING UP YOUR WORKSTATION OR LAPTOP

In order to setup your secured wireless access on your home workstation or laptop you must find the available wireless networks.  In Windows 7 this can be done by clicking the start buttonhttp://www.centerforactivegenerations.org/images/Windows%20Vista%20Start%20Button.png  found in the lower left corner.  Next click on control panel.  After the control panel screen appears select Network and Internet from the menu.  This will take you to a page that looks similar to the image below.

networking panel.png

Next you will want to select Network and Sharing Center.  This will take you to another page that lists options for configuring your networks options.  You will want to select manage wireless networks from the left panel as shown below.

network settings.png

Next you will see a list of all of the available networks you have added.  Remember the name of the SSID you gave your network earlier as you will want to find that on the list. If it doesn't exist press the add button.  When prompted select manually create a network profile. Enter the name of the SSID from earlier as well as select WPA- personal. Make sure that the encryption type is set to TKIP and then enter the passphrase the same as it was entered when setting up the access point earlier. Finally click next and your secure network will be created.

 

 

about the author

More about Rich Buehrle:
Rich is a founding member of Security Mecca. Rich is an E Biz D major with focus on Business Analysis and graduates in December 2011.

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