In the world of connectivity, you may have noticed an acronym getting thrown around, usually in conjunction with routers and modems. Wi-Fi Protected Setup, otherwise known as “WPS,” has some people scratching their heads, wondering what such a button actually does. A grossly simplified version is this: a modem/router’s WPS push button provides a quick way of connecting devices to a network.
How do you use such a feature? And should you use it? What can it do for you? These are valid questions, questions that will be answered here. Let’s dig right in and unbox this wonderful feature.
What is WPS?
WPS is a fancy acronym for “Wi-Fi Protected Setup.” But what does that mean, exactly? It’s one part of convenience and one part network security.
Have you ever noticed how incredibly long Wi-Fi passwords can be before you set it yourself? A password containing a jumble of letters, numbers and symbols is nigh impossible to remember. A WPS push button can serve as a shortcut for such inconvenience.
Furthermore, WPS is laced with encryption, utilizing WPA Personal or WPA2 personal security protocols–to be specific. Those types of encryptions are currently the only two WPS will work with because of the level of difficulty once has to endure to crack them; WPA2 is tougher to bypass than WPA.
Now, the type of encryption your network has is very important. If you have something under WPA, like WEP, then you will NOT have access to your WPS push button. This is due to WEP encryption being easily cracked. In fact, it’s highly recommended you upgrade your network. Wi-Fi Protected Setup will simply refuse to work with anything less than WPA.
How is WPS Used?
On any normal day, connecting to a Wi-Fi network requires you to know two details: the name of the network–that’s the SSID–and the password associated with that SSID. You’d open your device’s settings, find the SSID, connect by providing the password and then you’re on your way. Pretty simple procedure, right? Sure, for the most part.
But now let’s consider modems and routers that have passwords containing long strings of letters, numbers and symbols. No one in their right mind would memorize that, so they use custom passwords. Easy and convenient for you and everyone using your network, but not so much in the way of security. People have a knack of setting their Wi-Fi passwords to something simple and very personal. You’d be surprised how often it happens and, quite frankly, you should shake that habit.
Here’s the problem: personal information isn’t as personal as you think. A birthday, for example, is a common detail people use for passwords. That is incredibly easy to find out, what with social media being so prevalent.
So, what do you do? How does WPS help you out? First off, you revert to using a string of symbols, letters and numbers for your Wi-Fi password. And whenever you want to connect to your Wi-Fi network, use your WPS push button. This will give you quick access to your network without punching in all the random characters.
Connecting Your Handheld Device with WPS Push Button
For clarification, handheld devices can be smartphones and tablets. Most modern day handheld devices have the ability to connect through WPS, provided you aren’t toting around a dinosaur of a cell phone. Even a cheap $30 Android smartphone and has this ability right out of the box. And you’ll learn how to use it.
If You’re Using Android…
1. Locate and open the Settings app.
2. In your Settings application menu, locate and select Wi-Fi. It should be the first menu option near the top of the list.
3. In Wi-Fi, you’ll see three vertical dots in the top right corner. Go ahead and tap on them. In doing so, you’ll reveal a drop down menu. In the drop down menu, choose Advanced.
4. Scroll down until you see one of two menu options: WPS Push Button and WPS Pin Entry. If you want to connect instantly, choose WPS Push Button. If you want to connect via a PIN, use WPS Pin Entry.
5. When your device is ready to pick up the signal, press the WPS push button located on your router and or modem.
6. Select the Wi-Fi network and connect.
What About iOS Devices?
If you’re wielding an iOS device, then you are out of luck; iOS does not support a connection through WPS. The only way you can connect is the good old-fashioned way: manually inputting a network’s password through your Settings app.
Connecting Your Computer with WPS Push Button
Thankfully, WPS isn’t limited to handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets; computers can connect utilizing it, too. So long as your computer has Windows PC has Wi-Fi capabilities, you can utilize it.
If You’re Using Windows (7 and up)…
1. In the bottom right corner, in your system tray, open your network options. If you aren’t connected to a network, you’ll see a globe.
2. Give your PC a moment to search for Wi-Fi networks. Afterwards, select one.
3. Now, click Connect.
4. Instead of providing the password, head over to your router and or modem. Press the WPS push button located in the back, sides or front.
5. After a few moments, your computer should pick up on the Wi-Fi network automatically.
What About Mac Devices?
Apple users get burned again in this department. Mac OS doesn’t support WPS. The only option that comes close is connecting with a printer, and that’s done through AirPort. If you want to connect with a Wi-Fi network, connect manually with an SSID and provide the correct password.
Should You Use WPS?
Should you use WPS? Quite frankly, no. Two words: brute force.
One way of connecting is through a PIN, as mentioned before. It’s an 8-digit PIN, but split into two camps. When you connect in such a way, WPS first checks the first four digits and then checks the second. Unfortunately, that means someone could “brute force” the combination through software.
Here’s the math, simplified: from 0 to 9, a four-digit combination has only 10,000 possible combinations. For brute force software, that’s a cake walk. A hacker could run their program, break the first set of digits, then move onto the second set. This makes it unsecure.
On the other hand, using your WPS push button is leagues safer. It needs to be pressed in order to send out a signal for devices to connect to. Unless the hacker is a ninja, they aren’t getting into your house to press it. Best keep your nunchucks by your bed, just for good measure.