Wireless devices are pillars of the modern world. They have become so common that we don’t even consider them as unique. Mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and other devices exchange a huge amount of data with the internet. They are an integral part of our daily lives, hence ensuring their safety from threat actors is essential. One such element that helps us ensure security around our devices is a network security key, also known as a Wi-Fi password. User provisioning and governance tools software can help safeguard IT applications and assist with password management.
A network security key ensures a secure connection between users requesting access to the network, protecting the network and associated devices from unwanted access, empowering us to evade cyberattacks or information theft risks. By setting a network security key, which includes uppercase, lowercase, and special characters joined by a number, we can ensure it does not contain predictable elements like our name or the name of our loved ones, a number related to our birthdate, or any combination that is easy to guess.
Wired equivalent privacy (WEP) and Wi-Fi protected access are common types of network security keys used for authorization in a wireless network. Different types of network security keys offer distinct security offerings, but their primary function remains the same, regulating access to wireless networks.
WEP is a security algorithm that is intended to provide data confidentiality similar to traditional wired networks. It encrypts data packets using a 40-bit key combined with a 24-bit initialization vector (IV) to make an RC4 key. WEP is a sequence of characters between numbers 0-9 and the letters A-F. Anyone could decode the key by cracking the challenge-frames making it vulnerable. To protect the network security key from potential exposure, Wi-Fi protected access superseded wired equivalent privacy and evolved as a more secure authentication method in wireless networks.
In the Wi-Fi protected access (WPA) security algorithm, the client requesting to connect to a network needs a security key to initiate communication. After verifying the key, data exchanges are carried out in an encrypted manner. There are three versions of WPA: WPA, WPA2, and WPA3. WPA2 replaced WPA and implemented the mandatory elements of IEEE 802.11i, which includes support for CCM protocol, an advanced encryption standard (AES)-based encryption mode. WPA3 uses an equivalent 192-bit cryptographic strength in WPA3-Enterprise mode and mandates AES-128 in CCM mode as the minimum encryption algorithm in WPA3-Personal mode.
A network security key is labeled on the exterior of a router, usually on a small sticker at the back or the bottom of the device. If it’s not available there, check the packaging box or the manual that came with it from the manufacturer. The network security key would be labeled as a security key, WPA key, or passphrase on a router, and a default one would come with the new device. It can be changed to avoid unauthorized access. To change your network security key, you need to access the router’s login page, which requires the IP address of the router. On a Windows device, you can access the saved login data to get the network security key, while on Mac, you can access the keychain access screen to find the Wi-Fi network’s name and instantly get the security key.