Make sure you get your wireless security passphrase right on Windows Vista

This won't come as a surprise for those of you who've read many of my blog entries or who've discussed security with me directly but I have a somewhat obtuse Wireless Protected Access (WPA) passphrase and I've just mistyped it on my newly built Windows Vista client machine - I want to share with you the slightly bizare outcome. I blogged about the same problem with Windows XP SP2 (in fact all versions of XP) several months ago - you can read more by clicking here.

Upon first connecting a machine to a WPA protected wireless network you are prompted to enter the Network Key (passphrase) after which the interface suggests that you're connected. That may be true at a high level but it's certainly NOT true when it comes to establishing a USEFUL connection! Inspection via "cmd> ipconfig" reveals that my system has not obtained a valid DHCP lease and hence can't communicate to other systems via TCP/IP.

To correct the problem simply disconnect, reconnect and this time enter the correct Network Key!

The bottom line is that there's no error reporting or confirmation that your WPA secret is correct - it's just misleading that's all.

I'll feed this back to the product group.

Comments (5)
  1. Anonymous says:

    These routers have changed the way i look at things the technology has moved so far.

  2. Keith Thomas says:

    With Windows XP SP2 and 32 Security Updates: I find that Netgear and Draytek routers with the most upto date firmware provide less problems with wireless security setups. Also some Wireless Network Adaptor cards, do not work well with some routers, use the manufacturers router with their card for 100% results. I have fould that if a Wireless Adaptor Card or USB Adaptor gets hot, then you get a Wireless Signal, but no connection. Using a D-Link DWL-122 USB Adaptor with a PC thats always on 24 hours 7 days a week, the Repair option always resolves the problem of the PC not browsing the internet. Also during hot weather use a USB Extension lead and have the USB Adaptor outside a open window to keep it cool. Also if you have a Wireless Bridge or Wireless Repeater setup (WDS) then similar problems can arise.

  3. Steve Lamb says:

    Keith> Thank you for sharing your experience. There certainly are plenty of unusual problems that can arise. I’ve been using wireless @ home for a very long time and have experienced very few problems.

  4. nik says:

    Not just a Windows thing; ISTR OSX is similarly unhelpful too. If you’re feeding back comments, I’d add a couple (may not apply to Vista as I only have XP) 1. The text entry field is way to small for the maximum key length; may give people a false sense of security ("Hey, my key was bigger than the box, how much more do you need?" 🙂 2. Separate options for passphrase and key would be good, with the latter clearly indicating the specific length required (e.g. byte pair text fields or similar, XX XX XX etc)

  5. Steve Lamb says:

    Nik> Thanks for your comments. I agree with your suggestions. My domain password is currently 41 characters (it’s a passphrase) and it overflows the entry box for my Smartphone’s sync settings.

    I’ll pass on your suggestions. Cheers

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