When you're using wireless, youare sending data from your computer to an accesspoint through the internet to a server.
The security of a data streamis only as good as the security of the weakestsegment.
Often the weakest link is thewireless link from your computer to the access point.
While your traffic is in transitbetween your computer and the access point, it issusceptible to being sniffed by anyone who is within rangeof the wireless signal.
There are two commonly usedwireless encryption protocols: WPA and WEP.
If you're managing an accesspoint, then you should set it up to use WPA or WPA2 to encryptthe traffic between your computer and theaccess point.
WPA stands for Wi-FiProtected Access.
If you're connecting to anaccess point, then you will also want one that usesand supports WPA.
WPA encrypts the traffic so thatanyone who happens to be able to sniff or intercept yourtraffic will still not be able to understand the contentsof the packets they are seeing.
Unfortunately, whether aparticular network uses WPA or not is determined by the accesspoint owner and not by the person connecting to it.
If the access point promptsfor a password, then it is probably using encryptionof some sort.
If it is open and does notprompt for a password, then your traffic is vulnerableto being sniffed.
Often your device will displaythe information about which security scheme is being used.
If there is a little padlockicon next to the network name, this indicates an encryptednetwork.
Additionally, even if you'reusing WPA, you still need to think about the security of yourtraffic once it reaches the access point.
WPA only encrypts the trafficbetween your device and the access point.
If the access point is nottrusted, then the owner of the access point can view any ofyour traffic that is not encrypted by other means.
To learn about encrypting morethan just your wireless packets, watch our tutorialson HTTPS and VPN.