Which Wireless Security Should I Use?

It is important to secure wireless networks to prevent other people (ab)using your internet access or hacking into your computer – but which wireless security to use?

There are 5 levels of security available in consumer wireless routers (not all routers will offer all 5 levels): 1.  Open – unsecured, no password, anyone nearby can access your internet and computer network. A very bad thing…

2.  WEP – the oldest form of security, a password consisting of a large number of pairs of letters/numbers – better than nothing (just!) but very easily cracked (guessed). Anyone with a bit of tech knowledge could easily access your internet and network. Again, a bad thing – if your router is this old it is time to buy a new one.

3.  WPA – newer security, consists of a password (8 to 63 characters) – harder to crack but it is possible so use WPA only if WPA2 is not available. And strongly consider upgrading to a new router.

4.  WPA2 – newest security. also consists of a password (8 to 63 characters) but crucially this hasn’t been cracked yet! Always use WPA2 security if your router allows it.

5.  WPA/WPA2 Mixed mode – this is a combination of 3 and 4 and is offered by some routers that can use either WPA or WPA2 depending on what the computer trying to access it is capable of. This may be useful for compatibility with old computers that cannot use WPA2 but it is not recommended because (as we noted in 3 above) WPA is not totally secure.

Unless you have a very old wireless laptop/device (which you should really update now), always choose WPA2 only, not Mixed mode.

What Password Should I Use? You should choose a strong password for a wireless network. A strong password is one that is ideally 14 characters or more and is a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters like the * sign – this stops automated programs cracking it and so stops people hacking into your wireless network.

Make sure you can remember (or write down somewhere safe) your wireless password – you will need it in future if you have to set up wireless access for a new device (laptop/tablet/smart phone etc).

If you need help accessing your wireless router to set up wireless security, see our article how to set up a wireless router.