Connecting Your Secured LinkSys WRT54GC to your Windows XP Laptop or Desktop
If you followed along with the first article, then you are ready to set-up your PC to access the secure wireless connection.
This post does not go into hardening your PC against other threats, you should always make sure you are using a firewall, virus scanner and/or spyware blocking software.
Now that you have successfully configured your LinkSys WRT54GC the next step is to configure your PC so that you can access the secured connection.
This is easy to do, and only requires a few additional steps.
First you should have an icon on your status bar that looks like a computer – it shows the wireless network connection. When you move your mouse over top of it, you should see the wireless information for the connection.
Since your connection will not be established, there may be an X or SLASH through the icon. Not to worry, setting up this connection is very easy.
First step is to double-click on the icon. This will bring up the WIRELESS NETWORK CONNECTION STATUS window.
Next on this window, click on the PROPERTIES button. This will display another window that reads WIRELESS NETWORK CONNECTION PROPERTIES on the window bar.
Click on the tab that reads WIRELESS NETWORKS.
Since your network should already be set-up, you can highlight the entry and click on the PROPERTIES button – it will light-up once you select your network.
On this screen and this tab (marked ASSOCIATION) there will be several fields, one of which is called Network name (SSID). This field is not accessible, but will list the name of your network.
Then there is another block of options under WIRELESS NETWORK KEY. This is what you need to update in order to access your secured wireless network.
The first item is the NETWORK AUTHENTICATION. Provided you’ve kept your PC updated and have all the latest updates and patches, when you click on this list box you will have several options available to you: OPEN, SHARED, WPA and WPA-PSK.
Select the one that you used on your LinkSys WRT54GC wireless access point. Chances are if you followed part 1 of this article then you should select WPA-PSK.
Next you will select the DATA ENCRYPTION method. Choices available to you will be: TKIP or AES.
Once again you will select the one which you selected on your LinkSys WRT54GC wireless access point. TKIP and AES are both as strong, however AES may slow down your internet connection from your PC to the access point since it goes through more encryption methods.
In my experiences I have noticed that when I use TKIP I retain a 108 Mbps speed to the access point, whereas with AES it drops in half to 54 Mbps. However I’ve decided to stay with AES.
Once you have selected the appropriate DATE ENCRYPTION method the next step is to select the NETWORK KEY and enter this into two spots: NETWORK KEY and CONFIRM NETWORK KEY.
The network key is the SAME key you entered into your wireless access point (the LinkSys WRT54GC). If this is a long string and you’ve saved the string (not recommended for long-term, only during your initial set-up and configuration) then you can simply CUT the string from the document and PASTE it into the required fields! Otherwise you will need to manually type in the 63 character string – which may not be an easy task to complete.
Enter the string into the required fields – NETWORK KEY and CONFIRM NETWORK KEY then click on the OK button.
When the previous window opens up (WIRELESS NETWORK CONNECTION PROPERTIES) click the OK button again.
Finally click CLOSE on the WIRELESS NETWORK CONNECTION STATUS.
It may take a few seconds to a few minutes for your PC to synchronize to the access point, however once it does you will be able to surf the web securely between your PC and your access point. As well, it will be very difficult for the average individual to hack into your wireless connection and steal your broadband access!
It really is that simple, that everyone should be protecting their wireless connection. Not only are you ensuring nobody can use your broadband access, but data that is sent between your PC an the access point is secured as well – you won’t be sending out your account details un-encrypted anymore just waiting for someone with the smarts to capture that data and use it for their own means.
Before we finish, would you like to see how many secured or unsecured connections are in your area? Yes, you can see this easily with Windows own tools. Double-click on the icon we mentioned earlier in this article. This will bring up the WIRELESS NETWORK CONNECTION STATUS window.
Click on the VIEW WIRELESS NETWORKS button.
If you’ve done everything correctly you will not see your connection in the list but you will see all the other connections around you (for those individuals that did not disable the broadcast of their SSID) plus you’ll be able to see who has encrypted their connection fully and who is using basic encryption.
Those that are using WPA or stronger – those will be tough to crack or hack into. Those that are not – with the right tools (all available freely over the Internet) you could access their wireless connection with a bit of work and steal their broadband access (though I highly recommend that you do not).
Setting the appropriate security measures is very easy, and just common sense. Like you would not leave your bank statement in a public place – you should ensure that your computer(s) are secured to prevent your private information being given to the public.