I don’t want to make you any more paranoid about PC security than you already are (and yes, they are out to get you), but a report in Engadget suggests that a pair of Japanese students can hack WPA encryption, used on most Wi-Fi enabled devices, in around a minute. They have come up with a fancy new algorithm that, for the moment at least they’re keeping to themselves. It beats the previous record by some 10 – 15 minutes, making it a potential threat to Wi-Fi users. Details of the crack are due to be announced next month at a conference in Hiroshima, so it’s not in the wild yet, and even if it does escape, most users can protect their files by switching their WEP to AES (Advanced Encryption System) mode, or using the (so far) still secure WPA 2 system.

Windows Product Activation (WPA) is Microsoft’s way of keeping you from installing a copy of Windows Vista on more than one computer. It basically marries the copy of Windows Vista you’ve purchased to the computer’s hardware it’s installed on.

The WPA Process

When you enter the product key three identifiers are generated and collected:

* Hardware ID: A unique identifier that’s generated from information gathered about the computer’s hardware.

* Product ID: A 25-character unique key supplied when you purchase Windows Vista.

* Installation ID: An identifier Windows Vista creates from the hardware ID and product ID. More »

Why upgrade? Chances are you have bought something online with a credit card, used internet banking, or dealt with confidential information on your computer. If you use a wireless router with anything less than WPA2 encryption, your information may not be as secure as you think.

“WPA2 security is definitely worth the modest amount of effort required to set it up. The original WPA security standard can be cracked with relative ease unless you use a passphrase that is longer than 20 characters and is not merely composed of words that can be found in a dictionary.” [Quote from the PC World article: Wireless Tips: Your Wireless Network Needs a Security Update]

1. Check current devices for compatibility. Your router and wireless network card may already support WPA2; Google your devices and find out. If they do, download the latest drivers for your wireless network card and update the firmware on your wireless router (very easy to do, but follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully). More »

By default Windows hides WEP and WPA keys stored on your PC to connect to various Wi-Fi networks, but freeware utility WirelessKeyView lists them for you. When you’ve forgotten that Wi-Fi network key, run WirelessKeyView to see all the networks your Windows PC has ever connected to using its default Wireless Zero Configuration mechanism. This utility doesn’t reveal keys stored by third-party network connection software. Delete keys from old networks that you no longer need, and easily copy keys to the clipboard to send or save. WirelessKeyView is a free download for Windows XP and Vista. More »

Here is a handy way to export your wireless LAN settings if you failed to save them off or want to transfer them to another machine. You can also use this as a method of exporting your corporate wireless LAN settings which tend to be more involved than your typical WPA setup. You can also use this to deploy using SMS or other delivery methods. More »