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Security | 3 min read

What is a Network Security Key?

Josh Moore
Written by Josh Moore

If you're setting up or troubleshooting your WiFi connection, you might be asked for a network security key. A network security key is essentially the password that’s needed to gain access to a specific network. Without the key, you can’t connect. As the name suggests, it’s the tool that lets authorized users in and locks unauthorized users out.

When accessing WiFi, you’ll connect using that network’s security key, typically entering a password which then allows the network to remember your device.

Types of Network Security Keys

There’ve been several standards for network security keys over the years, with each new generation offering even greater levels of security. Your own router is almost certainly protected by one of these:

  • WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy)
  • WPA (WiFi Protected Access)
  • WPA2 (WiFi Protected Access 2)
  • WPA3 (WiFi Protected Access 3)

WEP Keys

The first standard was called WEP or Wired Equivalent Privacy, which offered the same expectations of confidentiality that users today now expect from wired networks. These were a good start, but they aren’t without vulnerabilities.

Despite being widely used at the start, WEP keys have some cracks in their encryption and security. All users with the same key on one network have access to each other's data, since the same encrypted message is provided in each connection. If your network is on WEP, it’s time to upgrade.

WPA Keys

WiFi Protected Access (WPA) keys were the first step beyond WEP and offered the added security feature of being able to use passwords created by users and even conceal their info from anyone else who might be on the network.

WPA2 & WPA3 Keys

WPA2 keys are another step up from WPA keys, providing network users with added security. WPA3 keys go even farther in their authentication protocols, but many WiFi devices might not yet detect WPA3 and support only WPA2

These keys all build on the security and benefits of the ones before. With that being said, they still aren’t impervious to criminals looking to gain access to your data. No matter how secure networks are, human error can still factor in, and users may inadvertently end up letting in the bad guys. 

Remain vigilant with any network key regardless. Cyberattacks can be extremely costly — even ruinous.

Next-Level Security Keys

The next steps in security keys involve physical confirmation that the person trying to access the network really is who they say they are. They’re referred to as Biometric and Two-Factor security keys.

Biometric security typically calls for fingerprint scanning and/or facial recognition, while two-factor or multi-factor authentication often requires an additional step of getting sent a code on a user’s device or email.

But even these networks aren’t foolproof. For example, someone using two-factor authentication could still fall victim to a phishing scam.

Nothing is ever 100% safe from cyberattacks or vulnerabilities.

How to Create a Strong Network Security Key

Having secure network keys is essential for protecting your network in today's increasingly digital and remote work landscape.

Making sure you select the highest security network you can is step #1, and that can be found by checking the specifications listed on the router’s packaging or on the router itself. 

Another component is creating an airtight password. Many experts in the field agree that the ideal password has all or some of the following qualities:

  • 11-12 characters or more (the more, the better)
  • A blend of letters, numbers and symbols
  • Isn’t a common word found in the dictionary
  • Isn’t a celebrity name or pop culture reference
  • Doesn’t just replace letters with common symbol substitutes (e.g., “$” for “S”)
  • Isn’t a simple keyboard path (“12345,” “qwerty,” etc.)

Once you’ve set up a strong network, the cybersecurity doesn’t stop there. Ensure everyone is following best practices, such as protecting sensitive data on video calls, being vigilant against phishing emails, and not plugging personal USB sticks or other personal items into the hardware.

Network security keys are the first line of defense for your networks. It’s crucial that you implement a modern, secure network with strong passwords to keep your data and assets protected.

Read More: 10 Proven Ways to Secure a Computer Network

Better Security with a Virtual Desktop

In today’s world of remote and hybrid work, network security is a major concern. Virtual desktop infrastructures (VDIs) have been around for years, but you can’t rely on just any VDI to keep your assets, data and employees secure.

Enter Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), which was made for this kind of remote work living. We’ve created an informative eBook detailing some of the top features of AVD, including security protocols, its fully managed cloud solution, its extensive storage capacity and more. Click the link below to access your free copy today!

Discover the latest advancements in virtual desktop infrastructure.

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