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What do ESSID and WEP mean to wireless network users?

Question: What do the terms ESSID and WEP mean? Why are they important to wireless network users?

Answer: ESSID stands for Extended Service Set Identification, which basically means the identifying name of the wireless network akin to a radio station “call sign” if you will. The ESSID is an electronic marker or identifier that serves as an identification and address for your computer, or network device to connect to a wireless router or access point and then access the internet. The settings can be either broadcast enabled (open) or broadcast disabled(closed)

A similar security protocol is WPA2 which stands for Wi-Fi Protected Access 2, which serves as a lock and key mechanism which comes in three strengths, none (weakest), 64 bit encryption, and 128 bit encryption (which is the strongest). To illustrate, think of ESSID as the street address on the front door of a home , and WPA2 as the door lock and Skeleton key. An Open wireless network can be a very serious problem, especially with the broadcast range of most modern routers at or close to 100 yards, any person with a knowledge of wireless networks and a wireless enabled laptop can easily find their way onto a vulnerable network and gain access to sensitive files, documents, and even steal identities And since most wireless routers are set to open network by default, open networks are more common than not.

It is a good idea to look into securing your network. While there is currently no such thing as a perfectly secure network there are a few security protocols and settings that may enable you to have a more secure home network. One method of making the network more secure is to disable the ESSID broadcast, which is analogous to covering up and hiding the front door of your house, because if the address isn’t being shown other computers don’t know what to look for. More secure still is to create a WPA2 key, which would be akin to locking the house door, the most secure is to both turn off the ESSID broadcast, and to set a strong WPA2 key with high encryption. This has the benefit of being more secure but also requiring extra work in configuring the router and your laptop.