Wireless technologies have become pivotal to daily business operations and communication. Devices such as smartphones and laptops require a Wi-Fi connection to access internet services from an internet service provider. On the other hand, cyberattacks targeting wireless networks are on the rise. Some of the biggest cybersecurity threats target network security, with social engineering, ransomware, and DDoS leading the pack.
For this reason, a network security key also referred to as a wireless network password, is required to secure a Wi-Fi network from adversaries.
What is a Network Security Key?
A wireless network key is a WIFI password required to access a network. It is a digital signature used to authorize a person to utilize a wireless network’s resources by connecting a new device. The easiest way users establish a secure connection involves selecting a wireless network name and entering a wireless security key. Additionally, a network security key plays a vital role in establishing secure connections between a wireless network, user, and wireless devices connected to the network. As a result, a network security key prevents unauthorized access. Every router or access point usually comes with a default password. It is recommended to change the credentials to a strong password to protect against dictionary attacks immediately.
Wi-Fi protected access is crucial to ensuring the security of users and wireless devices. Wireless networks secured using security keys are often exposed to multiple cybercrimes. For example, hackers can exfiltrate sensitive information shared through the network and use it to commit more crimes or sell it to the dark web. Cyber adversaries can use stolen personal information to execute identity theft attacks leading to financial losses and unauthorized access to user accounts.
When creating a network security key for a home network or corporate network, it is pertinent to adhere to best password security practices. These include creating lengthy passwords using upper case, lower case, and special characters. However, the passwords should not contain any personal information since hackers can use them to crack the password.
Various Types of a Network Security Key
There are different types of network security keys. Depending on the type of Wi-Fi password, they provide distinct security functions, but their roles remain the same, with the primary one being to regulate who can access a network. Today’s typical network security keys are Wi-Fi Protect Access (WPA/WPA2) and Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP).
A WEP network security key is a security passcode needed to authorize Wi-Fi-enabled devices to connect to a network. A WEP key permits devices to connect to a wireless network to provide an encrypted environment for sharing sensitive information. The key bit length can vary, but it is used to encrypt information shared between a wireless router and a device. The WEP Key prevents intruders from decoding and reading transmitted messages.
A WEP key consists of several characters that comprise numbers from 0 to 9 and alphabetical letters A through F. For example, a user can create a WEP key like F647AEB8CF. It is also important to note that the required WEP key length could be 58, 26, or 10 characters long. However, this depends on the WEP key version a user is using. A WEP network security can be generated automatically to provide users with hard-to-guess Wi-Fi passwords.
A WEP key provides two methods for encrypting information shared through a wireless network. These are shared key authentication and open system authentication. In the latter, a client does not require to share any credentials with a given access point. On the other hand, a shared key authentication is a four-step challenge handshake. It provides a clear-text challenge to users requesting to be authenticated. The client then sends back the challenge text after encrypting it using an accurately configured WEP key. The access point must decrypt the response to verify the match before completing the authentication process.
WPA2 and WPA keys are deemed to be more secure compared to WEP network security keys. A WPA key is a password or passphrase that a network owner creates to authorize specific users to connect to the network. One reason why a WAP key is popular is that owners can reset the passphrase or password.
WPA2 offers more robust security than WAP since it is designed to use the AES algorithm to encrypt a network. As such, WPA2 is recommended to businesses that require heightened cybersecurity measures for their networks. However, it is vital to note that WPA2 requires hardware with high processing power.
Also, the WAP network security certification program secures data from unauthorized instances of modification risks. It contains a message integrity check function that protects shared data from viruses designed to modify and retransmit data packets automatically.
Different Methods for Finding a Network Security Key
The methods used to find a network security key depend on connecting to a wireless network.
On a router
The default Wi-Fi password is usually located in the router’s exterior written on a small sticker. Other places you can find a router’s network security key include the router manual and packaging. Default new router passwords are known, and it is, therefore, vital to change the passwords using the following steps:
- Obtain the network’s IP address and input it in the browser’s address bar and press enter to open the login page of the devices control panel.
- Click on wireless settings or wireless security.
- Select WPA2 as the preferred network security key and change the credential to a strong password
On a Device Running Windows OS
The method used to access a network security key on a device running Windows OS is pretty straightforward. The steps are:
- Click on the Start menu
- Search View Network Connections and hit enter
- Click on the Network and Sharing Center option
- Select Wireless Properties
- Click on the Security tab
- Finally, check the box labeled Show Characters to reveal the network security key.
On a Mac Computer
The following are the steps used to locate a network security key on a Mac:
- Click the search icon
- Type Keychain Access and press enter
- In the top right corner, search for the Wi-Fi network
- Double click on the network
- Check the box labeled show password
- Enter the password used to secure the Mac to reveal the network security key.
Resolving Network Security Key Mismatch Errors
Network security key mismatch occurs due to incorrect passwords, wrong security mode, or defective errors. Fix the errors by:
- Verify the entered password is correct
- Ascertain the device can support the Wi-Fi network it is connecting
- Try to restart the device if it still shows a mismatch error after entering a correct password
- Try changing the type of security protocol used to encrypt the wireless network
- Finally, try disabling third-party antivirus products installed on the device and update the wireless network drivers
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