There are two basic types of WiFi security that you need to learn about. This article will look at them simply so that you can easily implement them on your own WiFi network, or when using others. You won’t need to be a tech guy to understand this, so let’s start better securing your WiFi right now!
WiFi security at home on your own network
The different types of WiFi security standards
When shopping for a router, or when looking at the options available on your current model, WiFi security at home all comes down to the type of encryption you use. There are currently seven common choices you can make. I’ll look at them now, starting from the worst at the top down to the best at the bottom:
- Open: These are WiFi networks that do not have a password on them. You should never, ever, set one up at your home. Anyone can use your WiFi and run your data use through the roof. You may even be held liable for anything illegal that happens on your network.
- WEP 64: This was the original standard for wireless encryption. The name stands for “Wired Equivalent Privacy,” but it is now about the equivalent of wrapping yourself in one layer of saran wrap so no one sees you naked.
- WEP 128: This is exactly the same as WEP 64, except with an encryption key that’s twice as large. A factor of two still wasn’t enough to make WEP 128 relevant today.
- WPA-PSK (TKIP): WPA encryption is the evolution of WEP. This is the earliest iteration of WPA and is no longer a good choice.
- WPA-PSK (AES): This takes the old WPA encryption and adds modern AES encryption. While it is a better choice than 1 – 4, devices which support AES are all also able to use the much more modern anwd secure WPA2 encryption.
- WPA2-PSK (TKIP): WPA2 WiFi encryption is the current standard. This particular one pairs WPA2 with the older TKIP. The only time you’d use it is if you have an old router which doesn’t support the next option. And even then, you should just upgrade your router.
- WPA2-PSK (AES): This is the current standard for WiFi security and encryption. On your router, look for the option called “WPA2” or “WPA2-PSK” and that will, unless stated otherwise, be this encryption standard. If you’re looking for a new router, don’t buy anything less than this.
If you want the highest WiFi security possible, WPA2-PSK (AES) is your only real choice. The reason that new encryption standards have been developed over options 1 – 6 is because they can be compromised.
WiFi security when leaving home
When you’re at home, or a WiFi network whose encryption level you’re aware of, you have fewer worries when it comes to your personal online security. But what about when you’re at the mall? Or the coffee shop? Or that friend of a friend’s party? You don’t know anything about their WiFi security and that’s a problem that you have to take personal responsibility for.
The easiest way to do it is by choosing one of our top 10 VPNs to encrypt your Internet traffic for you. As you read above, there are varying level of encryption. I’ll teach you about them in the same way as above, from worst to best:
- PPTP: The Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol was developed by Microsoft specifically for VPNs over dial up business networks. It is a widely used VPN encrpytion tool for both business and personal uses, but it is no longer secure. A number of WiFi security issues have come up that are so difficult to fix that even Microsoft no longer recommends you use it.
- L2TP & L2TP/IPsec: Problems with using L2TP encryption protocols included the fact that it requires an encryption suite/cipher to work, that it can be blocked by NAT firewalls, and that you may need some advanced tech configuration skills if you’re operating behind a firewall. If you can manage all that, it can be secure as there are no major vulnerabilities that we know of at this time.
- OpenVPN: If you want true WiFi security anywhere you go, there is no better choice than OpenVPn. This open source technology uses a variety of technologies together to give you an encryption layer that, as far as we know, not even the NSA is able to crack. Using AES encryption, the modern standard, will give you protection with no known weaknesses.
An honorary mention goes to VyprVPN and their in-house Chameleon VPN encryption. It is the OpenVPN protocol modified to scramble packets against Deep Packet Inspection. It is still, essentially, OpenVPN.
The importance of WiFi security isn’t some abstract need. It’s keeping your bank details secure from hackers. It’s keeping your family safe from stalkers. It’s making sure your private messages stay private.
You need to take ownership of your WiFi security in order for it be truly effective. Start today by checking the encryption level of your router. With the home taken care of, get your WiFi connection secure by choosing one of our recommended VPN providers.
Feature image via Servanto / Shutterstock