What is a Network Security Key?

The evolution of the internet and technology has been swift. As a result, online users have more access to tools and digital services than ever before, providing them with a previously unimagined level of information and convenience.

However, alongside the rapid development of the internet, many cyber threats have been growing. From individuals having their credit card numbers stolen to massive corporate data breaches, the threats to online security are real, but tools are in place to keep these attacks at bay. For example, network security keys are digital measures that help protect internet users when they’re online.

The term “network security key” will be explained in this article. In addition, you would understand why you need it and how you can get yours. 

What is a Network Security Key?

The network security key is a kind of network password or pass-phrase as a physical, digital signature, or biometric data password that provides authorization and accessibility to the wireless network or device with which the client requests to connect.

The security key also provisions to establish a secure connection between the requesting client and the serving network or wireless device like routers. This protects your network and devices from unwanted access.

It is the password or code needed to access a local area network. Network security keys allow users to establish a secure connection and prevent unauthorized access to the network.

Users who connect to an airport’s Wi-Fi network may have to pay a fee and input personal information. 

That information is protected thanks to the security protocols in place in the network itself. Those who don’t have the key or password would have difficulty compromising or attacking a network user’s information. 

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Types of Network Security Key

There are different network security keys, each having its own peculiar features and why it is picked over others. The network security keys are: 

1. WEP:

WEP uses a 40-bit key for encryption of the data packet. This key is combined with a 24-bit IV to make an RC4 key. This 40 bit and 24 bit IV makes a 64-bit WEP key. Two kinds of authentication methods are used, i.e., open system and shared key authentication. 

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The requesting client host does not need to present the credentials to the access point for authentication in the open system authentication method. Any client can try to associate with the network. 

While in shared key authentication, the WEP key is used for authentication by deploying a four-way challenge-response handshake process.

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2. WPA/WPA2/WPA3-

Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) keys are an upgrade over WEP because of their ability to accept human passwords and conceal a user’s information from others on the same network and authentication codes that make information sent across networks more secure. 

Just as WPA keys are an upgrade over WEP keys, WPA2 keys provide network users even more security. 

According to Lifewire, “WPA2 further improves the security of a network because it requires using a stronger encryption method called AES,” or Advanced Encryption Standard.

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3. Two-Factor and Biometric Keys

Biometric and Two-Factor keys are like WPA and WEP keys. They work to provide security to users accessing a network but are different in that they require some external or two-factor authentication. 

Users can insert YubiKeys into a PC and are prompted to press their key for authentication before being given network access. The additional “physical” or external layer of the two-factor security protocol helps to ensure the network and its connected devices are protected. 

Other biometric security features include fingerprint scanning and facial recognition. By providing some physical or human identifier, they help to ensure that networks remain secure. 

Still, even with these enhanced features, they can compromise security. For example, a person who accesses a network using two-factor authentication may still fall for a phishing scam, giving private information to someone posing a legitimate company or organization.

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What Do Network Security Keys Protect?

For a network security key to be so important, it must have some things it protects. Basically, a network security key:

Keeps your network safe from hackers: Hackers and cybercriminals can have various intentions when attacking a network. They may want to expose a corporation’s sensitive data and information. They may want to cripple the network itself to stop a person or an organization from accessing the internet. They may also want to play pranks. Whatever the intent, security keys work to thwart hackers and criminals. 

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Protect users’ identities and information: When people access a network, they often exchange more than just usernames and passwords. On a poorly protected or unprotected network, information regarding people’s identities, including addresses, financial information, employment details, and other sensitive data, can be compromised. On a secure network, keys, protocols, and encryption standards help to keep that information private.

Keeps valuable software and hardware from becoming compromised: Individuals connected to poorly protected or unprotected networks may inadvertently download malicious spyware or malware that can harm their devices.

How to Find Your Network Security Key

You can find your network security key from your desktop. You can access your particular routers as administrators, then find information regarding the network ID and passkey, as well as identifying connected devices.

Additionally, you can find your network security key from your mobile. Some smartphones can act as personal hotspots to access the internet and generate their own network security keys. 

Why Do you Need a Network Security Key?

The major aim of having a network security key is to ensure that your information is safe. In addition, secure wireless networks help prevent various online threats. Basically, it would be best if you had a network security key for:

Piggybacking occurs when a user connects to an unprotected or poorly protected wireless network in close range, such as a neighbour’s Wi-Fi network. People rarely monitor who’s logged on to their network; they may not be aware that piggybacking occurs.

Wardriving: Wardriving is a more targeted version of piggybacking in which hackers single out unprotected or poorly protected Wi-Fi networks in close range. 

Evil twin attack:  An evil twin attack entails a false network closely resembling a legitimate one.

Wireless sniffing and unauthorized computer access: Wireless sniffing and unauthorized computer access occur when individuals seek poorly or unprotected networks and can access and compromise sensitive data communicated through and within them, such as credit card numbers provided for online transactions or personal files on a digital device. 

Shoulder surfing: Shoulder surfing is less sophisticated than other digital risks but just as dangerous. An individual observes the information another user inputs into a computer or mobile device. 

Conclusion

This article has articulated the concept of network security keys and their various types. Network security keys are often the first line of defence against cyber-attacks. 

Understanding how they work and the importance of having a strong passcode can help users and their organizations keep their valuable data safe.

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FAQ

How do I get a security key?

To set up your network security key, turn on 2-Step Verification and choose a second verification step; on your Android phone, go to “myaccount.google.com/security”, under “Signing in to Google,” select 2-Step Verification, scroll to “Set up alternative second step” and tap “Add security key”.

What does a network security key look like?

Usually, your router has a sticker that lists the Wireless Network Name, also known as an SSID, and the Wireless Security Key Password, which is your network security key. Network security keys are a combination of characters, for instance, F23Gh6d40I.

Why is my laptop is not connecting to Wi-Fi?

Select the “No internet connection” icon on the right side of the taskbar, and make sure Wi-Fi is turned on. If it isn’t, select it to turn it on. Also, make sure the Airplane mode is turned off. Finally, make sure the physical Wi-Fi switch on your laptop is turned on.

How do I find my network security key without Internet?

If you lost or forgot your security key or wireless home network password, check the bottom or side of the router for a sticker that lists the default password; if your router doesn’t have a default password listed on the device, check the router manual.

What is the network security key on the laptop?

Essentially, it is the password or code needed to access a local area network. Most of us are familiar with network security keys at home; you use one to join your personal Wi-Fi network. Network security keys allow users to establish a secure connection and prevent unauthorized access to the network.

Can you use a USB as a security key?

Security keys can connect to your system using USB-A, USB-C, Lightning, or NFC, and they’re small enough to be carried on a key chain (except for Yubico’s 5C Nano key, which is so small that it’s safest when kept in your computer’s USB port).

How do I find my network security key for Windows 10?

Right-click on the start menu, click on network connections, scroll down and click on network and sharing centre, click on your wireless network, click on the wireless properties button, go to the security tab where you see that your password is masked.

References

  • lifewire.com/find-security-key/
  • businessinsider.com/what-is-a-network-key
  • soscanhelp.com/blog/what-is-the-network-security-key-on-a-computer
  • guru99.com/security-key/
  • lazyadmin.nl/home-network/network-key/
  • learn.g2.com/network-security-key/ 

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