What is WPS, how does it work and what to watch out for

Most routers have one called WPS. Read all the information you need to know about it and especially what to watch out for.

wifi wifi

Wireless networking is now an integral part of computer functionality. It is everywhere, from mobile phones connected to mobile antennas, to the Wi-Fi in your home, which "falls" on as many devices that you don't want to wire them.

The wireless connection, however, requires handling and memorizing security codes that are often a hassle for novice users.

It also carries additional hacking risks as it often leaves you open to easier attacks. WPS can help you reduce this risk without requiring you to be tech-savvy. It's all done with a simple push of a button on your router.

What is WPS (Wi-Fi setup)

The WPS system comes to simplify the wireless connection for people who are not familiar with the technology and complex security protocols.

Your router's WPS feature is a simple method to connect your wireless devices when you don't want to connect them manually. It uses an automated protocol to transfer you to your local Wi-Fi network without requiring a password, while keeping your network secure.

For example, if someone is having trouble connecting wirelessly to their printer or their new robot vacuum using their Wi-Fi SSID and password, especially if it's too long with special characters, it can simplify the whole process.

WPS is an attempt to solve this difficulty. More specifically, it allows users to create a secure connection between two devices using Wi-Fi, but without needing a lot of tech knowledge. The only caveat is that both devices must use the WPA or WPA2 security standard.

Their technology is simple. Pressing the WPS button on the router at that moment (within a few seconds) instantly unlocks the router's wifi network. Therefore, any device can be connected at that moment and request to connect.

Of course, if someone else is searching at the exact moment you have pressed the wps button, they can connect and hack you, but this is rather unlikely. It is therefore considered a safe method because immediately afterwards the WPS function stops and the wifi network is locked again.

WPS, originally introduced in 2006 by Cisco, has over the years become a fairly standard feature for many devices using Wi-Fi. It's still common on devices you buy today, but some manufacturers have removed it due to security concerns.

The Pros of WPS

Wi-Fi, WPS, router, intranet, network, wireless, connection

There are two things in favor of WPS. Ease and speed! The reason I use it is because some device interfaces are horrible or incredibly difficult to access without a good set of tools.

For example, most Wi-Fi extenders require you to log in to their admin page, which may sometimes ask you to use an Ethernet cable.

In general, if you want to connect an IoT device, you should carefully read its instructions for use, especially if it doesn't even have a keyboard and screen but only lights, like a robot vacuum cleaner.

All of this can lead to frustration for those who are not tech-savvy and may end up having the device sitting in the corner unused. That's where WPS Quick Setup can help, as it can connect two devices with just the push of a button.

How secure is WPS?

Wi-Fi, WPS, router, intranet, network, wireless, connection

Convenience certainly comes with very serious security concerns, because it can either be forgotten open, or brute force attacks on a WPS device's PIN are possible.

This means that you should disable WPS on your device if you are not using it, assuming your router allows it to be disabled.

You should be aware that due to these vulnerabilities, fewer and fewer wireless devices work with WPS. Android 9 and above, for example, have no support for WPS at all.

Assuming your router supports it, you can use the newer standard Easy Connect Wi-Fi, where you scan a QR code stuck on your router, which delivers the credentials directly to your wireless device.

It's also worth noting that WPA3 has made WPS somewhat more secure.

How to use WPS

In general, there are two main ways to connect to WPS devices: using a button and/or using a PIN, as previously mentioned.

The button is generally the easier of the two options, especially since it doesn't require you to find or use any kind of admin page. Instead, all you need to do is press two WPS buttons: one on your router and one on the device you want to connect to, in that order.

It works similarly to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi pairing on you, except that the router must be enabled first so that it can be located.

If you're not sure what to look for in your router, check out the Huawei HG8245A router used by Inalan in the photo below. The WPS button on the side of a router and on the top and front also has an indicator light.

If your router has a WPS PIN, you just need to enter the PIN ID, usually found on your router page or stuck on the device. It's a little more hassle than the button, but it's the only alternative if there isn't one.

In conclusion

Whether you should use WPS depends on how much convenience you want. If you're concerned about the security of your network, it's best to leave it off and connect using your Wi-Fi network's password.

If you don't mind the security concerns of WPS, use it to connect awkward devices like printers, IoT, TVs, etc. to your network much more easily.

At least WPA3 has beefed up the security of WPS, so if you have a newer router you have less to worry about.

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Written by Dimitris

Dimitris hates on Mondays .....

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