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Thursday 17 November 2005 5.58pm
If you pysically connect your computer to the wireless router with an RJ-45 ethernet cable, and click into the setup link for the router, you can read the WEP password there.

This of course assumes that you do know your adminstrator username/password for the router. I believe that for netgear the default username is admin and the password is 1234 (or 12345).
Friday 18 November 2005 5.30pm
Hurrah! Success! I am writing this from a wireless internet connection! Thank you all so much for your help and explanation of WEP passwords. Just one more question: at the moment I have set the password to be 64 encrypted. Is that enough or should I choose 128 bit?
What's the difference?
Saturday 19 November 2005 5.49pm
64bit WEP is way easier to crack than 128 bit, in the same way that WEP is way easier to crack than WPA. That said, if you're just using your PC at home - who's seriously going to try and crack your password ? Just my personal opinion, but as long as you've got something that stops people from logging onto your system, that should be enough.

The only other thing to remember is that all of the things that connect to your network have to have the same level of encryption, so if you're ever having trouble getting something to connect - check that it is also running 64bit WEP.

One other easy thing you can do which will also help secure your network, is set your router to only allow named MAC addresses to connect. Basically, your PC has a unique MAC address. You tell the router only to let that address connect to the internet, even if someone cracks your password, they can't use your connection.
Saturday 19 November 2005 5.49pm
64bit WEP is way easier to crack than 128 bit, in the same way that WEP is way easier to crack than WPA. That said, if you're just using your PC at home - who's seriously going to try and crack your password ? Just my personal opinion, but as long as you've got something that stops people from logging onto your system, that should be enough.

The only other thing to remember is that all of the things that connect to your network have to have the same level of encryption, so if you're ever having trouble getting something to connect - check that it is also running 64bit WEP.

One other easy thing you can do which will also help secure your network, is set your router to only allow named MAC addresses to connect. Basically, your PC has a unique MAC address. You tell the router only to let that address connect to the internet, even if someone cracks your password, they can't use your connection.
Monday 21 November 2005 3.25pm
"if you're just using your PC at home - who's seriously going to try and crack your password ?"

Not wishing to put the frighteners on people, but it depends what you're doing on the computer. If you do any form of internet shopping and pay by credit card, or transmit / receive any sensitive data "over the air", it is advisable to put WPA encryption rather than WEP (64 or 128 bit).

What fraudsters are increasingly doing (particularly in built-up residential areas with many wifi networks in a small area) is a technique called "packet sniffing" followed by offline analysis of the data. In simple terms, they have a radio receiver that "listens" for data transmitted over the air (ie. from any wi-fi network within, say, a 300 yard radius) and collect it on a computer. They then take it away and use a WEP-cracking computer program to analyse the data. On average, it takes about two weeks for the computer program to crack the WEP code and decrypt the data. The fraudster doesn't have to take any great effort - he just sits back and lets the computer get on with the work.

The fraudster now has two useful bits of information:
1. The decrypted information from his "sniffing" exercise. If you were placing an internet order at the time you were being sniffed, he would have managed to decrypt your credit-card number at the same time.
2. The WEP codes of all networks "sniffed" 2 weeks ago. So, he can now go back to that location and decrypt the data "in real time" (unless you've changed your WEP code in the last 2 weeks).

Moving from 64 bit to 128 WEP does make it harder for the fraudster to hack, in that it requires more computing power to crack the code, but unfortunately WEP suffers from being able to be cracked using offline analysis (which WPA cannot).
Tuesday 22 November 2005 12.14pm
so, stupid question (from fabhat, not mr fabhat) how do we set a WPA?
Tuesday 22 November 2005 3.38pm
On my wifi router (Belkin), setting up WPA is as straightforward as setting up WEP.

On the router's configuration menu, under wireless security, set it to "WPA" (or, if there are several options for WPA, to "WPA-PSK"). It will then ask you for a "pre-shared-key". In simple terms, this is a password that is known by the router and all computers wishing to connect to the router.

Choose a long character string (say, 20 characters) for this string and (VERY IMPORTANT), try not to use words found in a dictionary. Write it down.

On your computer, the first time you connect to your router it will ask you for the pre-shared-key. Type it in and hey-presto you're in.
Tuesday 22 November 2005 3.53pm
Thank you very much Martin - I'll try it tonight!
Wednesday 23 November 2005 3.44pm
Thank you very much from me also, as soon as I have fortified myself with a bottle of wine and half a pound of chocolates I will try to set a password as well! Does anyone know why my netgear router periodically goes offline? It has only just started to do this (although router is only about 2 months old) and if I unplug it and plug it in again it goes back online. The amount of time between it going offline varies.
Many thanks.
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