Keeping your home network safe is an increasingly tricky proposition: that much has been true since before the seemingly endless NSA revelations loop began unfurling. We’ve reported on router after router being exposed as vulnerable, new tech from Apple that could help the government shut down your WiFi, and the general ease with which anyone can subpoena your personal information (which is available in more places than you might realize), and there’s no end to these stories in sight.
We here at FlashRouters are doing what we can to inform readers and make people’s networks as secure as possible, and we acknowledge that staying secure online isn’t the easiest thing in the world. That said, there’s no reason to make hackers, identity thieves, and snooping government employees jobs any easier by using WEP on your WiFi network.
What Is WEP?
WEP, or “Wired Equivalent Privacy”, is a security algorithm that has been in use since 1999, designed to bolster and create similar security on wireless networks to that on wired networks during a router’s configuration process.
Though it’s usage was initially quite widespread, security flaw after security flaw have been revealed (many of which we’ll delve into below), and WEP has mostly fallen out of favor, paving the way for WPA and WPA2.
If you want to know if your router or device is reliant on WEP, all you have to do is log into your router, go to the wireless settings, or properties, and check the Security tab; it will indicate whether you’re using WEP or WPA.
How Easy Is it to Crack WEP?
Well, before we get into cracking WEP, let’s briefly mention one of its biggest problems: WEP is optional, which means that many would-be installers never activate it in the first place. WEP may not be the best security – in fact, it’s about the minimum – but it provides some and, to state the obvious, that’s better than none.
But it’s almost as troubling how easy it is to get into WEP. In fact, we have a new video* by one of our network security specialists (EZ) that demonstrates exactly how easy it is:
The fact that it’s that easy should shake you, as should the fact that it is the default encryption that many cable providers use for their routers that they install in homes. Just a few minutes with Linux, and your whole WiFi network is compromised, thanks to WEP.
Safer WiFi Set-Up Recommendations
In case it’s not clear from the title of this article and the sections above, we want to stress above all else, that you should never use WEP; it’s that simple.
So, you might reasonably ask, what should I be using? When you’re setting up your router (perhaps your FlashRouter), we recommend going with WPA2 with AES encryption.
WPA stands for “WiFi Protected Access” and was introduced as a placeholder improvement over WEP. WPA2 is an improvement of WPA, particularly because it allows for the use of AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) for encryption.
Don’t believe that’s good enough for you? Well, AES is used by the US government to protect classified information, and they tend to want to keep their secrets secret.
For more information about wireless security and router information, follow us on Twitter and/or like us on Facebook. And if you’d like to see more videos like the one above, check out our brand new YouTube channel.
*Of course, the purpose of the video is to demonstrate the startling ease with which one could crack WEP. FlashRouters does not endorse using these methods for gain improper access to networks as that is not legal in many countries and municipalities.