How to Make a Key
I’d like to take this article to answer a question I get often from my neighbors and friends, since they know I’ve built home networks literally from scratch.
“How do I make a good WEP key?"
My natural retort is to tell them to make a WPA or WPA-2 Key instead. Of course, there is no difference between making a WEP or WPA key, but you shouldn’t be using WEP security after it was discovered that even the neighbors kid who has no knowledge of computers can just piggyback off your wireless network.
So, with your settings switched to WPA or WPA-2, let’s dive into my three key rules for making, well, a key of a different sort:
1. Memorable, but not already Memorized
Your WPA password should be something that you don’t already have memorized and use for twenty different websites. Chances are, that if this happens, a simple sniffer can use a keylogger and find out which password you keep typing over and over again. To that end, make your WPA password something easy for you to memorize after you’ve already created it – spend a week or so memorizing the password, or keep it in a password manager you’re 100% sure will keep it safe. Treat your WPA password like you treat your bank account password, because if you have piggybackers on your network, you are essentially paying for a service you aren’t fully getting.
Never, ever make a password that is a word or a string of numbers. The reason is, that if it’s not a combination of the two, a hacking program that guesses passwords will scoff at your attempts to fool it. Here’s a simple math exercise – if you use a 9 digit (more on that later) alpha-numeric password (with upper and lower cases), your password has 1.35 x 10E16 different combinations (that’s 1.4 followed by 16 zeros!). If you just use a numerical password, your password only has 10E9 combinations. Fundamentally, you’re missing out on 10 million new combinations. And while this sounds a little strange, to a hacker, having to try 10 million more combinations takes up a considerable amount of time when you consider that each and every combination must be tried in order.
3. Long, but not too Long
Psychology professors will tell you that the human brain has an easier time memorizing things that come in strings of 3-4 letters or numbers and that have some sort of significance to you personally. This is why SSNs have 9 digits, and most other ID codes can be broken down into smaller chunks to be easily memorized. To this end, I recommend a WEP key that can easily be broken down into segments of threes or fours. Keep in mind these tips for not only making WPA keys, but also for making passwords, as they can greatly help you stay more protected.
For more on these Wireless security keys read: WEP, WPA, and WPS - Which to Use?