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Is information sent over a wireless local area network secure?

Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs) can link computers without wiring or cabling. These are very convenient, but they can be a little less secure than wired connections.

To protect your network, activate Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP or WPA). WEP provides the same level of security as a wired Local Area Network (LAN).

History of WEP & WPA

Like their name says, Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs) can link computers without wiring or cabling. They offer great convenience but they are somewhat less secure than their "wired" counterparts. To protect wireless transmissions in your network, activate WEP or WPA. WEP, or Wired Equivalent Privacy, is a security protocol for WLANs that was defined by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers in 1997. WPA, or Wi-Fi Protected Access was created by the Wi-Fi Alliance to correct the weaknesses that were discovered in the previous security protocol, WEP.

WEP is designed to provide the same level of security as that of a wired Local Area Network (LAN). LANs are inherently more secure than WLANs because they are somewhat protected by their physical structure and their cabling, which is located totally or in part inside a building that can be protected from unauthorized access. WLANs transmit information over high-frequency radio waves, and do not have the same physical structure, which makes them more vulnerable to tampering. WEP aims to provide security by encrypting data during transmission -- that is, transmitting it in a secure code.

Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA and WPA2) is a certification program created by the Wi-Fi Alliance to indicate compliance with the security protocol created by the Wi-Fi Alliance to secure wireless computer networks. This protocol was created in response to several serious weaknesses researchers had found in the previous system, WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy).

The later WPA2 certification mark indicates compliance with an advanced protocol that implements the full standard. This advanced protocol will not work with some older network cards.

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