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Old 05-18-2014, 06:30 PM   #1
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Default WEP encryption compatibility

I have a WiFi network that I am using to connect old computers to the internet. The encryption mode of the router for my WiFi network is currently set up for WEP. Most of my PCI wireless cards for my computers only allow WEP encryption. The encryption for these cards makes me use an eight-character key, which I assume means that this is 64-bit WEP encryption.

I now want to add another computer to the network. This one is an old compaq laptop running Windows 98 and uses a Dell TrueMobile 1150 wireless card. After trying to enter my eight-character key in the TrueMobile client manager, I receive a message saying "Use 5 printable characters (or 13 with gold card)". Does this mean that the TrueMobile card is set up for 40-bit encryption instead of 64-bit? If so, is there any way for me to make it so that it will accept the eight-character key?

If I disable encryption on my router, then I can get all of the computers to connect to the network, including the one using the TrueMobile card. However, I hate to leave my network unsecured. Does anyone know if there's a way to get this TrueMobile card to accept 64-bit encryption, or if this is even what the problem is?

The documentation for the TrueMobile card talks about being compatible with WindowsXP, so I assume that it's new enough to be able to accept eight characters (64-bit encryption). However, the documentation doesn't say much about encryption. Because it's an old product, I see no way of getting help from Dell tech support. Is there hope, or am I simply out of luck?

Thanks for your time, and I appreciate any help that anyone is able, or willing, to provide.
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Old 05-19-2014, 12:44 PM   #2
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Default Re: WEP encryption compatibility

If it's running 98 then I'm going to guess 'it is what it is'. I can't think of anything that would allow it to read more encryption than what it is programmed for. I'm not sure if it's hardware or software, but maybe a driver update would help, but again if it's running 98, then it's unlikely that there is a driver update to begin with.
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Old 05-20-2014, 09:50 AM   #3
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Default Re: WEP encryption compatibility

If you're right, and the problem is due to Windows 98, then I may give Linux a try. I know they make distributions of all kinds. DSL is one that's designed to work on machines that have limited hardware resources, so I may have to try that. Hopefully, it's that easy.

Thank you for responding to my post. I greatly appreciate your input. I plan to respond on how this turns out.
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Old 05-20-2014, 11:26 AM   #4
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Default Re: WEP encryption compatibility

Great, but again it might be limited by the hardware of the wifi card. I'm not sure where the encryption capabilities are stored.
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Old 05-20-2014, 11:45 AM   #5
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Default Re: WEP encryption compatibility

I'm beginning to think that it's the card and not the operating system. I have a different laptop that has the same kind of PCMCIA slot and is running Windows XP. When I try to use the card in that machine, Windows says "Windows was unable to find a certificate to log you on to the network". So I went into control panel -> Network Connections -> right clicked the device icon -> properties -> wireless networks -> clicked on "properties" for my network shown under "Preferred Networks" and tried to enter my network key into the "network key" prompt. Once again, it won't accept my 8-character key. I get a message that says "The network key needs to be 40bits or 104bits depending on your network configuration. This can be entered as 5 or 13 ascii characters or 10 or 26 hexadecimal characters."

Because I'm receiving this similar error in Windows XP, I don't think the problem is with Windows 98. But all of this is very strange. The documentation for this card clearly mentions Windows XP. So wouldn't it make sense that the card is new enough to accept an 8-character WEP key?
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Old 05-20-2014, 12:16 PM   #6
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Default Re: WEP encryption compatibility

After a bit of searching, it would seem to me that 40bit and 64bit are the same thing.

Quote:
Understanding the numbers

A WEP network uses either a 64 bit or 128 bit encryption key, but the Wi-Fi industry usually refers to the former as "40 bit." Though a bit inconsistent, this naming convention is easy to understand: The password you enter takes up either 40 or 104 bits, and in both cases a 24 bit random number is added, totaling 64 bit and 128 bit keys. You may see 40/64 and 104/128 used interchangeably as appropriate in context. The larger numbers refer to the total key, and the smaller numbers to the actual password.
Note that your password can only contain 0-9 & A-F. So I'm not sure why it's not connecting except that it's just too old...but it still should work.
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Old 05-20-2014, 03:03 PM   #7
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Default Re: WEP encryption compatibility

Here's another question. I know that it's frowned upon to leave a network unsecured. But what's the worst that could happen if I do so? Is it just that others would be able to log on to my network, and therefore, use my bandwidth, and that's all that can happen? Or is there something worse that could take place?

According to my router's specifications it's supposed to support up to 16 computers wirelessly. So if I already have 16 of my computers running on the network, would no one else be able to log on?

As I've said before, if I leave the network unsecured, then all computers work with it -- which tempts me to just do that. But I don't want to do it if I'm overlooking just how dangerous it could be.

I want to thank you again for your responses. I really do appreciate them. You're a big help, so I thank you for your time.
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Old 05-20-2014, 05:00 PM   #8
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Default Re: WEP encryption compatibility

simple answer? A lot. Once I'm on your network assuming any kind of middle of the range protection software I'm still in and looking at all of your data (pictures, videos, saved tax returns, web site cookies and so on) in minutes, if not seconds.

As for the 16 devices that'd be awfully hard to maintain as any time something isn't on the DHCP server can boot it's lease if something new requests an IP. You could (assuming the router supports it) set up MAC address filtering so only specific devices can connect but adding devices down the road can be a huge pain. That aside, your data is still sent in plain text over the air so anyone sitting outside can sniff it and save it.
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Old 05-20-2014, 08:41 PM   #9
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Default Re: WEP encryption compatibility

Well it looks like I finally got the card to work. When running the client manager in Windows 98, there's a little check box that lets me choose a hexadecimal WEP. I checked that box, and entered a 10-character, hexadecimal key, and it accepted it. This also is allowed for all of my other devices. So that's wonderful. I can finally connect this old laptop and still use encryption to keep my network from being unsecure.

Thank you, celegorm, for showing me the havoc that could be caused if I left my network unsecure. I also want to thank you, jmacavali, for all of your patience and input. I'll certainly remember all that I've learned here.
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Old 05-21-2014, 07:44 AM   #10
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Default Re: WEP encryption compatibility

Fantastic news! Glad you got it working.

Come back if you need help with anything else.
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