What is a network security key? Before answering this question, here is an interesting fact: you may be using that network security key every day without even knowing! But isn’t that the case with many things we come across daily on our computers, laptops, or even mobiles—that’s the enigma of technology at its finest!

When it comes to technology in general, we tend to skip the basics: learning the names and functions of many of the elements or steps we take daily. It doesn’t seem that important to us for some reason; as long as it works the way we want it to, why bother? Right?

As humans, we start to take things for granted and normalise them in our minds. However, very few of us are fluent in computer jargon or comprehend our equipment. Sadly, that’s not the wisest of choices in many cases while dealing with technology, such as the case with the network security key. This is something that could jeopardise your safety and your network!

So, what is a network security key, and why do we need to know about it? Let’s find out.

So, What Is a Network Security Key?

Network Security Key

Do you know the password of your Internet network? That’s the network security key; so simple, right? Well, let’s dive in a little deeper. Without it, you can’t receive the signal, use the internet, or connect your computers or other devices to your router.

You won’t be able to access your Internet-based websites, apps, or data if your computer forgets the network security key or someone modifies it. When you attempt to join a new device to your network, you will frequently need it.

Time for some technical terms: the network security key is used to calculate the uninterpretable “ciphertext”, i.e. the encrypted text, from the unencrypted content of a message. Depending on the type of encryption used (for example, WEP or WPA2), the network security key can vary in length and include different characters.

Instead of calling it “network security key”, there are various commonly-used terms, which sometimes lead to confusion. Some of these terms include “network key”, “security key”, “wireless key”, “wireless network password”, “WEP or WPA key”, “passphrase”, or “pre-shared key”.

The network security key is the basis for encrypting and securing a wireless network; you need it to connect to an encrypted WLAN. The router configuration menu, a computer already configured for the WLAN, and sometimes an imprint on the router will help you find the correct setting.

Where to Find the Network Security Key?

It can be found either in the documentation you received from your ISP or simply on the back or bottom of your router. It may be mentioned as any of the following terms: “security key”, “WEP key”, “WPA key”, “WPA2 key”, “wireless key”, or “passphrase”.

Also, you can find the key in the router’s configuration menu, which you can reach by connecting your computer to the router using the network cable supplied. Refer to the router’s manual for a description of how to access the router configuration menu in your browser and log in.

In the router configuration menu, look for the Security/Encryption settings and then for one of the terms given above.

Set or Change the Network Security Key

You can change or set the network security key yourself, which is highly recommended if you just got a new router, as the default settings do not often provide the highest security possible.

When doing so, make sure that your password consists of at least eight characters, numbers, and letters to protect your network from getting accessed by others. Some routers are also case-sensitive when changing the network key.

How To View the Network Security Key From a Connected Device

Network Security Key

If a device is already connected to the WLAN and you want to add another device but no longer have the key, you can display the network security key on the already-configured device.

On Windows Computers:

  • Type down “ncpa. cpl” in the start menu search field and confirm by pressing the Enter key. This will open the network connections.
  • Of course, there are several other ways to do this: you can double-click on the existing wireless network connection and select “Wireless Properties”. Switch to the “Security” tab and activate the “Show characters” checkbox.

On Mac Computers:

  • Click “Go” at the top of your screen, and then select “Utilities”.
  • Double-click on “Keychain Access.” Find your network in the list.
  • Check “Show Password” (enter admin password if requested).

On an Android Phone:

Depending on the type of phone, you won’t be able to see the key, but you will be able to share it via QR-Code:

  • Navigate to Settings
  • Go to connection settings
  • Under WLAN, you should see your network
  • Click on the configuration icon next to the network

Network Security Key Vs. Router Password

Now, is there a difference between the network security key and the router password? The router password protects the management of the router. On the other hand, the network security key is only there to protect against unauthorised persons in the WLAN. With the router password, you control who in your WLAN or LAN can change settings such as WLAN name, password, parental control, etc.

What About WPS? Can It Replace a Network Security Key?

WPS is an acronym for “Wi-Fi Protected Setup”; WPS is the approach of quickly establishing a wireless network connection between two devices. It can be used, for example, to register smartphones with a WLAN router at the touch of a button.

While the router’s access PIN usually must be entered on the new device, the login is automatic here. Usually, the configuration button on the router is pressed first, and then you have two minutes to press a button on the other device or confirm the WPS connection in a menu.

There are other login methods for this technology, but most often, either “push button configuration” or “WPS by PIN” is used.

During this time, the network is open to any device wanting to connect. It receives the credentials from the router and can later connect to the network automatically. It is worth noting that there is a small risk that someone will interfere with a login attempt at this very moment, but the probability is low.

Activate WPS with PIN: How Does it Work?

WPS with PIN is an additional security feature that involves entering a PIN in the router’s management interface and pressing the button. In your home network, you usually set on the router whether and which WPS method it should use.

You can disable WPS altogether; you must enter the full WLAN key for each new device on the network. This option is done with one keystroke on both devices and a WPS PIN from the new device.

The WPS method with PIN is mainly used when there is no WPS button on the device to be connected. In this case, you need to get the PIN of that device somehow. Often you will find it on a sticker on the device, or it will be displayed during setup.

In conclusion, a network security key is like the key to your house. You must pay attention to that key. Otherwise, you might end up with uninvited and, most probably, harmful attacks on your house/network. Nevertheless, the network security key is only one of the crucial security measures you must have on your system to prevent a data breach. To protect yourself from harm truly, you need to learn more about cyber security and, of course, have a good antivirus