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There are several different wireless encryption options. They all have different strengths and a variety of traits.
WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) is the original protocol. It's referred to as either WEP-40(WEP 64bit) or WEP-104(WEP 128bit). The 40 or the 104 is referring to the size of the key. 24bits are used as an initialization vector. So if you have WEP 64 bit, that leaves 40 bits to implement the key. A 40 bit key is normally represented with a 13 character hexadecimal code. A 104 bit key (which if you add 24bits to, is 128bit) will usually be a 26 character hexadecimal key. If the key is stored in ASCII format, it will be shorter for each encryption setting.
WEP is considered outdated and fairly weak. It's not difficult to crack a WEP connection; however some wireless adapters have not had software updates to support newer encryption algorithms.
Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA and WPA2) are the most up to date standards. These protocols are much stronger than WEP. They are designed with two different implementations. The first is Pre-shared key (PSK or Personal). This authenticates directly off the router, to the client end device. The second is EAP (Extensible Authentication Protocol) which is sometimes referred to as Enterprise. This allows authentication against a server, either via some type of encryption key or by a certificate. There are a variety of EAP protocols out there, but we will not be covering them here as they are all outside the scope of what will be supported with our equipment.
The most common setting used for WPA will be WPA-PSK TKIP (Temporary Key Integrity Protocol). This is a significant upgrade in security over WEP. It also allows for better throughput on the connection, since it's more efficient. There are still some issues with this configuration being able to be cracked.
Eventually WPA2 was created and added CCMP which is a new and substantially stronger encryption scheme. WPA2-PSK supports both TKIP and AES (Advanced Encryption Standard). AES is used by CCMP (Counter Mode with Cipher Block Chaining Message Authentication Protocol). Basically, it's a new way transferring and encrypting the data that is transferred over the wireless signal. Support for WPA2-PSK AES requires a newer router, but most client devices should support this feature if manufactured after 2003. WPA2-PSK AES is the preferred encryption setting for Wireless N connections. Utilizing either TKIP or an older WEP encryption will cause noticeable speed/throughput issues.
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