Is powerline networking secure?

Last Updated on March 13, 2021 by Dave Farquhar

Is powerline networking secure? It can be, but just like wireless, you have to set it up securely. Here’s what you need to know about powerline networking security.

Why use it?

Is powerline networking secure?
Is powerline networking secure? It is if you set it up correctly. Image credit: Micah Drushal/Flickr

When you live in a neighborhood where everyone has a wireless network, you’ll struggle to get adequate coverage in every room of your home. Some building materials pass the signal less readily than others. Some devices interfere, like cordless phones. Your neighbors’ wireless may interfere.

One way around that is to add access points, but each access point needs a wired connection. If it’s not practical to run Ethernet cables through the walls, powerline networking is an option. Ethernet is cheaper, but powerline networking is much easier, especially in a multilevel house. And if you rent, powerline may be your only option.

The TP-Link AV1000 is a popular and proven choice today, but they all work about the same way. Keep in mind the maximum speed the devices advertise is theoretical and optimistic. In the real world you may get much less than the maximum speed. But it’s more convenient than running Ethernet cable, and there are some things you can do to try to increase your powerline speed.

Setting up powerline networking security

Here’s how to set them up so that a neighbor with a powerline adapter can’t snoop on your network. All of these devices come with a management utility to connect to them and administer them. TP-Link describes theirs on page 12 of the manual.

The network name can be up to 64 characters long and can include upper and lowercase letters and numbers. Make up a gibberish name 64 characters long–no shorter–using a mix of all three types of characters. This network name serves as the key for your encryption; it’s absolutely vital for it to not be the factory setting. Then save the setting.

After you set the network name, pair the devices. This works the same way on all powerline adapters. Press the button on one of the adapters and hold it for no longer than two seconds. Then, within 60 seconds, press the button on the other one and hold it for no longer than two seconds.

Since you’re not likely to share your power circuit with more than 1-2 other households, powerline networks don’t reach as far outside your house as wireless networks do. But you still need to secure it. Sharing your banking information with two other people is still two too many.

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