Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) encryption protects computer networks by authentication users. A network administrator sets his WEP encryption to use either shared network keys or open keys, each with its own advantages and drawbacks.
Open key systems request authorization to join the network by providing a service set identifier (SSID) password and the router responds with success or failure. Shared key systems have users set a password manually on each system. When a client attempts to connect to a network, it encrypts the password and sends it to the router, hoping it matches the password on the router.
Shared key authentication systems have less denial-of-service attacks than open key systems since attackers cannot send garbage packets into the network. Open key networks provide greater overall security as users trying to access a WEP network must provide a password each time log-on is attempted.
Since a network using shared keys assumes that all users are authentic, each station can eavesdrop on another station’s traffic. Hackers can observe communications between other systems and steal the encrypted messages. Hackers on open key networks do not have this ability.