What is Network Security Key?

In the era of technologies, wireless communications have evolved at an alarming rate. Wireless communication implies communication between two or more locations through an electrical channel. It is carried out using two-way radios, cellular telephones, or wireless networking. The use of wireless networks has made it significantly more accessible for everyone to connect to any network. From the personal to the enterprise-level, the use of wireless networking is extensive. 

The wireless network is a network that is connected between the network points using wireless data connections. Using the wireless network, you can save the cost of establishing the wired cables in the home or enterprise for the network connections. There is a need for the security of the wireless network that we use. For this purpose, the network security key plays a very crucial role. 

What is the Network Security Key?

Let us see what the Network Security Key is. The Network Security Key is a unique password of identification that helps users keep their networks secure and safe. This password can be either a digital signature, biometric data, or physical.

Whenever a person tries to connect to the particular wireless network, he or she needs to provide its respective network security key to gain access. 

The network security key ensures the secure and reliable connection between the client and the network or devices connected to the same network. These devices can be routers, etc. The primary goal of the network security key is to avoid unauthorised access to the wireless network. 

We see that the security key is used in every aspect of human life. Some examples of the security key’s immense need are online banking, money transactions, online shopping, accessing internet services, logging into an account, etc.

In every stated example, authorization and authentication are mandatory, which are monitored by the security key. 

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Need for Network Security Key?

The primary reason to use the network security key is to maintain the secure connection between the user requesting access and the network. Some other reasons to use this security key are as follows:

  • The network security key allows users to maintain the entire network safe and secure from unauthorised access. 
  • Along with the secure connection, the network security key also helps users maintain the data reliably and safely. 
  • If the user accesses any data from the network, the security key ensures that the data is provided to the right and authorised person. 
  • The network security key protects organisations and businesses from remote hackers, spyware, and intruders. 
  • Man-in-the-middle (MiM) attacks are prevented through the network security key. The data is broken down into smaller parts; each part is encrypted and sent through different paths. 
  • Another reason to use the network security key is to avoid the network’s downtimes due to heavy network traffic

Types of Network Security Key

The network security key used today is mainly of three types. They are as follows:

  1. WEP (Wi-Fi Equivalent Privacy)
  2. WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access)
  3. WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2)

Let us know the information of each of the types in detail.

1. WEP (Wi-Fi Equivalent Privacy)

WEP stands for Wi-Fi Equivalent Privacy. It is one of the types of network security key for IEEE802.11 network standards. WEP is the 64-bit security key. It is the combination of a 40-bit key for data packet encryption and a 24-bit key Initialization Vector. This combination is also referred to as the RC4 key. 

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Formation of 64-bit WEP key:

The WEP security key is a hexadecimal key of length 10. In other words, the WEP key contains ten characters from 0-9 and A-F. Every character in the WEP key is of 4 bits. Hence, the total bits for ten characters form 40-bits. Additionally, these 40-bits are combined with the Initialization Vector’s 24-bits. 

The formation of 40-bits in the WEP key has another method as well. Some devices connected to the network allow users to use 5 ASCII characters as 40-bits key. Each ASCII character has a length of 8 bits. So, the total length for five ASCII characters becomes 40 bits. And the combination of the 24-bits Initialization vector is mandatory to form a 64-bit WEP security key. 

Authentication:

WEP uses two methods of authentication. They are as follows:

  1. Open System Authentication
  2. Shared Key Authentication

Open System Authentication:

Open System Authentication is a kind of process in which users do not have to provide any credentials to access the network or the device connected to the network. Anyone can access the system without giving the details. The only use of the WEP key is for encrypting the data. For this purpose, one needs the same WEP key. 

Shared Key Authentication:

Another method of authentication in the WEP is shared key authentication. In shared key authentication, the WEP network security key is used for a four-measure challenge-response handshake method. Let us see how this method works:

  • The user first requests the authentication to the access point. 
  • After the user requests, the access point then replies with a clear-text challenge. 
  • Now, the user requires the WEP key to encrypt a clear-text challenge sent by the access point. Once encrypted, the client again sends the encrypted text as the authentication request. 
  • After receiving the request, the access point decrypts it and checks whether the decoded text matches a clear-text challenge. If it fits, the access point replies to the client positively. 

The above process seems to be very secure. But, hackers can easily access the key and encrypt the message. However, this method is not reliable and safe. So, the need for another network security key, WAP,  emerged for the sake of data protection. 

2. WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) and WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2)

For security and protection purposes, the need for a WPA network security key arose. In the WPA and WPA2, the data between the client and the access point is encrypted only after the validation of the WPA key. This key is compatible with IEEE 802.11i standards. The method of Temporal Key Integrity Protocol is adopted for WPA and WPA2. 

Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) was developed to offer advanced security features to the network. In this method, a new temporal key is used for every data packet. Every time the data packet arrives, a unique 128-bit key is generated automatically. The TKIP uses three security methods as follows:

  1. The first method is a mixing function. In this method, the secret root key is combined with the Initialization Vector to form an RC4 key. While in WEP, the private root key is just concatenated with the Initialization Vector. 
  2. The replay attacks in WEP were encountered. So, to avoid these attacks, the TKIP uses a sequence counter method. In this method, the access point discards the packets that have arrived out of order. 
  3. The third method implemented by the TKIP is Message Integrity Check (MIC), which is of 64-bit. The packet’s sequence number is re-initialized whenever the new key is used. 

The significant purpose of using the Message Integrity Check (MIC) is to avoid the alteration of the message by hackers or intruders. In the WEP, Cyclic Redundancy Check (CRC) was used, where the data integrity was not maintained. 

The higher version of WPA is WPA2 that supports CCMP. CCMP implies Counter Mode CBC-MAC Protocol. CCMP is an encryption technique used for IEEE 802.11i standards that ensures data integrity and confidentiality. 

Two versions of WPA and WPA2 are available. The first is for home use, and the other is for enterprise use. 

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WPA and WPA2 Personal

As its name indicates, WPA and WPA2 are used for home and small-scale businesses. The personal version does not require any server-based authentication. It uses pre-shared keys (PSK) of 256-bits. The 128-bit key is operated out of 256-bits to encode the data using WPA and WPA2 Personal. 

WPA and WPA2 Enterprise

The enterprise version is advanced and requires server-based authentication. It is used in the medium-scale and large-scale businesses. WPA and WPA2 Enterprise versions make use of RADIUS server authentication. This type of authentication is very secure and reliable. It practices IEEE 802.1X for authentication. 

We have gained a complete guide about wireless network communication, its security key and kinds of the security key. Now, lets us see how to find the network security key or the password on routers, Windows, and Android. 

Steps for How to Find the Network Security Key for Windows Systems

For Windows operating systems, the network security key is nothing but the password you need to enter to connect to a particular WI-Fi network. Without entering the password, you will not gain access to the internet. Follow the below steps to find the network security key Wi-Fi password for Windows systems:

  1. First, click on the start menu, go to settings, and select the Network and Internet option. After selecting, click on the Network and Sharing Center. 
  2. Once you click on the Network and Sharing center, you will see the list of connections available. Click on the network that you desire to access. 
  3. After you select the network, the Wi-Fi Status appears on the screen, and you will notice the option of wireless properties. 
  4. Click on the wireless properties and select the network security key to enter the password of the network. 
  5. When you enter security the key or password, it checks the network requirements and IP address. Once the checks complete, you will be connected to the network. 
  6. After connecting to the system, it displays as connected below the Wi-Fi name. 

The above steps are very straightforward and more manageable. Even novice users can find the network security key after reading these steps. 

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How to Find the Network Security Key for Routers

The only means to connect your computer device to the router and gain access to the internet connection is the network security key. If you change or mix-up a single character in the security key, you cannot access the internet connection. Let us look at the steps for how to find the network security key for routers:

The network security key of the router is represented either as a security key, WPA key, passphrase, or WEP key. When you purchase a router or modem, it comes with a manual. That manual contains the network security of that particular router. Using the passphrase noted in the manual, you can connect to the router after it is established over the network. 

The default network security key for any new router is given at the button having any one of the labels, like Password, Wireless password, or WPA Keys. 

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Steps to Find the Network Security Key for Android

The 3G and4G networks of the SIM cards allow users to connect to the system. You just need to turn on the internet data of the device to access the internet. You might be getting confused about the need for a network security key for Android devices. 

You might know the concept of Wi-Fi and Hotspot. You can turn on the hotspot option of your device, and by entering the passphrase, others can use your mobile data. The below actions will help where you can find the network security key of your Android device:

  • On your Android device, click on the settings app, and you will see the option of Wireless and Network. Click that option and choose Tethering and Portable Hotspot. 
  • You will find the WLAN or Wi-Fi hotspot option on the screen. Click on it, and your WLAN hotspot will turn on. 
  • After turning on, you can see the network name of your device, security type, like WPA-PSK or WPA2-PSK, and the security key. 
  • You can change the name of the network and the security key as per your requirements. 
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When any other user desires to connect to your mobile data, he or she needs to enter the security key or the password. 

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Are the terms Network Security Key and Password different?

There is a minor difference between the network security key and password. Usually, the network security key is associated with routers or modems. For every router and modem, there is a network SSID and WPA or WPA2 network security key. The manufacturers of routers or modems decide the network security keys. 

The password is usually associated with mobile devices. When you access the internet connection from any Android device, you need to enter the password set by the Android device user. The concept of the network security key and password is the same, but the only difference is the association of devices. 

Network Security Mismatch Error

What is network security mismatch error? Many times, we enter a wrong network security key or passphrase and try to connect to the network. Due to wrong or mixing of characters of the password, you will get the network security mismatch error. The security key you enter, and the actual one differs.  

The alteration or mixing up of characters is not only a single reason for mismatch errors. There are many other reasons for this. The following is the list of reasons and solutions for network security mismatch error:

  • To avoid the network security mismatch error, you will have to enter the correct password of the device. 
  • If you enter the correct network security key, and still the mismatch error exists, you should restart your router or android devices. Your device sometimes may get hang. In such circumstances, restarting the device works. 
  • The version of the Wi-Fi network also plays a crucial role. If the version of your Wi-Fi device is not compatible with the device you are trying to connect, it displays network security mismatch error. Before choosing a router or modem, check its compatibility with your device. 
  • In some cases, you need to reset the entire system to avoid the network security mismatch error. 

Benefits of Network Security Key

The network security key plays a significant role to access any internet connection. Let us know some other advantages of using the network security key.

  • The data accessed by the client from the access point is safe and protected through the security key. 
  • Any attack on the internet due to viruses or spyware will not wreck the computer device. 
  • All other attacks on the system that are external are prevented through the network security key.
  • The network contains a massive amount of clients’ as well as organisations’ data. Through the network security key, these data on the system can be protected. 

Conclusion:

The network security key is a unique set of characters required to access the particular network. There are three different kinds of the passphrase used these days, WEP (Wi-Fi Equivalent Privacy), WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access), and WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2). The detailed information on each of these kinds is explained above. 

The WPA and WPA2 key is the latest key type with higher security and reliability. Later, we focused on how to and where to find the network security key for routers, Windows, and Android devices. The network security key is related to routers or modems, while the term password is used for mobile devices. You may get the network security mismatch errors due to multiple reasons. 

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