When you’re using wireless, you are sending data from your computer to an access point through the internet to a server. The security of a data stream is only as good as the security of the weakest segment. Often the weakest link is the wireless link from your computer to the access point.While your traffic is in transit between your computer and the access point, it is susceptible to being sniffed by anyone who is within range of the wireless signal.
There are two commonly used wireless encryption protocols: WPA and WEP.If you’re managing an access point, then you should set it up to use WPA or WPA2 to encrypt the traffic between your computer and the access point.WPA stands for Wi-Fi Protected Access. If you’re connecting to an access point, then you will also want one that uses and supports WPA.WPA encrypts the traffic so that anyone who happens to be able to sniff or intercept your traffic will still not be able to understand the contents of the packets they are seeing.Unfortunately, whether a particular network uses WPA or not is determined by the access point owner and not by the person connecting to it.If the access point prompts for a password, then it is probably using encryption of some sort.
If it is open and does not prompt for a password, then your traffic is vulnerable to being sniffed. Often your device will display the information about which security scheme is being used.If there is a little padlock icon next to the network name, this indicates an encrypted network.Additionally, even if you’re using WPA, you still need to think about the security of your traffic once it reaches the access point.WPA only encrypts the traffic between your device and the access point.If the access point is not trusted, then the owner of the access point can view any of your traffic that is not encrypted by other means.To learn about encrypting more than just your wireless packets, watch our tutorials on HTTPS and VPN.