What is a Network Security Key?

What is a Network Security Key

At CTemplar, one of our main goals is helping users be more secure online, whether through our own encrypted email service or providing useful Internet safety and privacy tips.

Not everyone is an Internet security and privacy expert though.

Most people take the Internet for granted. They don’t have to bother knowing what an IP or DNS is for example and they are almost always able to “go on the Internet”.

However, from time to time, you do need to know what some terms mean, like the “network security key”.

This article will explain what is a network security key, why you need it, how to find it and how to protect it.

What is the Network Security Key?

So what is the network security key exactly?

This is just a fancy term for your WiFi password. 

It represents a network password that you need to enter to get access to a wireless network.

In fact, since your computer will remember the WiFi name and the password from the first time you log in to the network, there’s not much need to remember the network security key. 

The only times you might need to look for one is if you’ve bought a new device that you want to connect to the WiFi network, or if someone is visiting you with their own device and need to use the WiFi.

There are two main types of network security keys:

  1. WEP, or Wired Equivalent Privacy. 

These types of 40-bit encryption keys are today no longer used as they are very easy to crack, so if you see your network using WEP, change it immediately.

  1. WPA, or WiFi Protected Access. 

Today most networks use WPA2, the second version, but the third version, WPA3 is becoming more and more available.

How to Find a Network Security Key on Your Computer?

Okay, so how do you find the network security key in that case?

The easiest way to find it is to simply flip over your router and look for the WPA2-PSD. You’ll also find your WiFi network’s name here. 

For example, when I am in another country and renting an Airbnb, that’s the first place I look if the host hasn’t already left a note.

However, keep in mind that users can change their WiFi username and password and the one on the router is just the default one your ISP gives you. So, if you changed and forgot what is your network security key, here’s how you can find it:

On Windows 10

Step 1: Go to the Control Panel, open Network and Internet and then open Network and Sharing Center.

Step 2: Once you have Network and Sharing Center opened, find and click the name of your WiFi network.

Step 3: A new window “Wi-Fi Status” will appear. Click on the “Wireless Properties” button.

Step 4: Go to the “Security” tab and check the “Show characters” checkbox. You’ll now be able to see your network security key.

On Mac

Step 1: Open Spotlight search by pressing Command+Space or the search icon in the top-right of your screen.

Step 2: Type “Keychain access” and press “Enter” or “Return” to launch the app

Keychain access

Step 3: On the left side, below “Keychains” go to “Systems”.

Step 4: Find the WiFi network you need a network security key for in the list and double click it to open another window.

Step 5: Click on the “Show Password” checkbox.

Step 6: A new window will open asking you for your admin Mac username and password. Type that in and Keychain Access will show you your network security key.

Type that in and Keychain Access

How to Protect Network Security Key?

As you might have guessed, a network security key is not something you want to be widely known. 

This is why you need to learn how to protect your network security key and ensure that hackers don’t gain access to your network.

At a minimum, you should make sure that your antivirus software, firewall and router are all up-to-date.

For most devices, including yours, these three will be the first and strongest line of defense against would-be intruders and malicious code. Unfortunately, hackers are quick to find even the slightest vulnerability in them and that’s why you regularly update their software for security patches.

Also important, and this is something most people don’t do and should, is to change the default network security key. 

A lot of times your network security key is pretty easy to crack, like “admin” or “password”. Even in some scenarios, where the default key is complicated, it might be a good idea to change the default one to something only you will know.

How to Resolve the “Network Security Key Mismatch” Error?

This type of error happens mostly on Windows 7 computers, where a user would enter a password to access their WiFi, but would be denied by a message saying “Possible network security mismatch”.

This error can be caused by several factors:

  1. Having out-of-date and faulty wireless drivers.
  2. A 3rd-party antivirus tool acting up.
  3. Windows remembering the network under a different security type.

There are 5 possible solutions to resolving the “network security key mismatch” error:

Solution 1: Reinstall Wireless Drivers

Step 1: Open Device Manager.

Step 2: Go to Network Adapters and find the troublesome networking device. Right-click on the device and select Uninstall device.

Step 3: Confirm your choice and click the Action in the menu bar and select Scan for hardware change.

Step 4: Windows should begin downloading and installing the latest available driver.

Solution 2: Disable 3rd-Party AV

Step 1: Disable your antivirus tool. The option should be somewhere in its Settings.

Step 2: Try to connect to your WiFi again. If you get a message about network security key mismatch again, you will need to uninstall the antivirus tool.

Solution 3: Change the Router Security Type

Step 1: Log in to your router. You’ll find your router IP on Mac by going to System Preferences > Network > Advanced.

Network > Advanced

Step 2: Login and go to Wireless security settings.

Step 3: Change the Security Type to WPA or WPA2-Personal and enter a new password.

Solution 4: Try Resetting/Refreshing Your IP Settings

Step 1: Press the Windows and “R” keys at the same time to open the Run dialogue.

Step 2: Open Command Prompt by entering “cmd”.

Step 3: Type 

ipconfig/release

ipconfig/renew

Step 4: Restart your device and try to re-connect to the network after restart.

Solution 5: Change the Type of Protocol You are Using

Step 1: Go to the Control Panel.

Step 2: Open Network and Internet and then left-click Network and Sharing Center.

Step 3: In the Network and Sharing Center, left-click Manage wireless networks on the left-side pane.

Step 4: Find the network that’s causing problems and select it via left click.

Step 5: Check the Security type in the info bar below it.

Step 6: Click Remove to forget the network.

Step 7: Once you’ve removed the network, click Add and in the next window select Manually create a network profile. 

Step 8: Enter the Network name and where it says Security type change that to WPA or WPA2-Personal if it was previously set as WEP.

Step 9: Enter your network security key (make sure you have the correct one of course). Set your encryption type to AES here as well.

Step 10: Click Next and just follow instructions until the end.