If you’ve bought a new router, then it’s likely you’ve come across a button labelled WPS. The term stands for Wi-Fi Protected Setup. It was invented by Wi-Fi Alliance, a global association that certifies Wi-Fi products and promotes the wireless technology. If you’ve been curious as to what the button is and its function, then here’s a comprehensive guide.
What is WPS and How does it Differ from WPA?
In layman’s terms, WPS is a wireless networking standard that helps connect a router and wireless device(s) faster. The WPS connection between two devices is created only when the user physically switches on the WPS button. This is where WPS differs from WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) and WPA2 Personal Security (Wi-Fi Protected Access Version 2) where it’s possible for a third party to intrude or steal your signal.
WPS and WPA/WPA2 are technologically different. The security protocols of WPA/WPA2 use encryption technology to connect Wi-Fi devices. WPA uses an older technology which can be easily hacked while WPA2 uses a safer immune encryption technology. WPS, on the other hand, doesn’t use encryption technology and is made specifically to protect you from hackers.
How Does WPS Work?
While WPA technologies require the user to choose the particular network and enter its password to link devices, WPS simplifies the connection process. It offers two methods to link devices – ‘Push Button’ method and ‘Unique PIN’ method.
Most modern routers have a WPS button alongside the Ethernet ports or at the bottom. When you push the button on your router, it begins to search for other devices. All you need to do then, is to select that network from your device to pair up and connect. The pairing system works like Bluetooth connectivity and does not require a password.
Some devices like wireless printers and extenders come with their own WPS buttons. They can be used for creating a faster connection between them and the router. You just need to press the WPS buttons on both the router and the device once and they’ll automatically connect. You won’t need to press the WPS buttons in the future to get the same devices connected to the same network.
The other method requires a unique PIN to create a link between the router and the device(s) if the router doesn’t have a WPS button but supports WPS. The PIN is usually an eight digit number printed on a sticker that you can find either on the bottom or the back of the unit. To connect with a wireless network, the user will have to enter this PIN that’ll act as a password as it’s a randomly generated and cannot be changed by users.
However, some wireless routers that connect devices using the PIN method, check the first four numbers when creating a connection. This makes them vulnerable to be guessed at through the brute-force method. With the help of several tools, hackers can crack the codes and exploit your system, especially if the router has no limitation on the number of password trials.
Routers with a WPS push button are more secure as hackers would need to have physical access to your WPS button to break in.
In a nutshell, WPS makes your life easier by connecting your Wi-Fi enabled devices to your home network quickly and securely. It’s good to use only the WPS Push button for a secure connection.