Making the Best of WEP

Wired Equivalent Privacy is a fairly weak security standard, but if you're not using anything else, it's a good start.

I keep hearing that WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) is too weak a security scheme for wireless networks, but Im not prepared to throw out my old access point and card to buy new ones with better security. Recognizing that WEP is imperfect, how can I best take advantage of whatever security WEP provides my home network?

Larry Mayer

Using WEP instead of more sophisticated security schemes like WPA (Wireless Protected Access) is a little like putting a padlock on a door. It wont stop someone who is determined to break in, but it will discourage anyone who isnt willing to make an effort. Heres a check list of things that will make breaking though WEP harder. Not all of the following features are available on all 802.11b hardware, but you should take as many of these steps as your hardware allows.

  • Check the manufacturers Web site for the latest firmware, which may have additional security features.
  • Make sure your access point is set to require WEP, not just use it as an option.
  • Set WEP for the highest-level encryption that you can. Alas, 128-bit encryption may not work among products from different manufacturers (the IEEE standard is 64 bits), but its worth a try. In an informal test, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the 128-bit encryption in a Linksys WAP11 access point works with the 128-bit encryption in a D-Link PC Card.