How To Secure Your Wireless Network

Author James Mash 6.2.2013. | 17:02

We’ve all stolen some internet from an unprotected Wi-Fi network at one point or another. However, connecting to an unsecure wireless network can be quite dangerous. Not only that, if you’re the owner of that unsecured network, you internet could be slowed down, someone could access your personal data or even worse, someone might perform some shady activities on your network and you would get the blame for them. While securing your wireless network might seems extremely difficult, it is in reality rather simple. All it takes are a few mouse clicks and a strong password.

 

To start with

When connecting to a wireless network, you connect to the router behind it, sending the wireless signal. If unsecured, any computer within range can connect to this network.

Most routers can be accessed by entering “192.168.1.1” in your browser’s address bar and filling in a username and password. Default passwords vary from router to router and from company to company so we advise you to have a look in the router’s manual or on the back side of your router. If you can’t seem to find the login details, try http://www.routerpasswords.com/ or http://www.cirt.net/passwords to find the default password for your router. You will need to log in to your router to change the security parameters of your wireless network.

 

Encryption

As a first line of defense, encrypt the data sent wirelessly between your device and the router. There are two main types of encryption you can use:

Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP): Introduced back in the ’90, WPA was one of the first encryption algorithms to protect a wireless network. Although some older routers might still support this type of encryption, we do not recommend this one since it’s heavily outdated and has demonstrated numerous flaws over the years. It’s better than nothing, but extremely easy to crack.

Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA & WPA2): As successors of WEP, WPA and WPA2 are two of the most commonly used advanced security encryptions for wireless networks. The encryption keys used change each time a device accesses the network, making it much harder to hack than WEP. If you have to option to choose between WPA and WPA2, go for WPA2.

When setting up your wireless network for the first time, your computer should automatically prompt you to ask which encryption you wish to use. If not, head over to the security setting of your router and turn it on there. And remember, your security is only as strong as the weakest link, your password. Make sure to choose a password with more than 10 characters, preferably a mix between letters and numbers.

 

Change the router defaults

Make sure to change your router’s Admin login and password to something more secure to prevent break-ins. You might also want to turn change the Service Set Identifier (SSID) name. Most manufactures just name the router after the company, for example “Broadcom” but to increase security, we advise to change the name so others don’t assume you’re using the router’s default username and password as well.

 

Turn off SSID broadcasting

Turning off SSID broadcasting is turning off the function which broadcasts a message to notify you (and everyone else within range) of the presence of the router. It’s not a big security feature but at least, the daily user won’t be able to connect to your network since he won’t be able to see it. However, some devices might have problems connecting to the network if it’s not sending out its SSID.

 

Allow access based on MAC address

Every network enable device –From Android Tablets to Desktop PCs- has its own, unique MAC address which helps the router to identify that specific device. Most routers can be configured to filter Machine Access Code (MAC) and only allow access to recognized MAC addresses. You can preset the MAC addresses of all your devices you use and add some to the list later when your collection grows.

To find your PC’s MAC address, open a command prompt, type cmd, and hit Enter. Then type ipconfig .all and hit Enter once again. The MAC address will show as “Physical” address or as 6 pairs of alphanumeric characters set apart by double points.

On other devices, such as Android Phones and Tablets, the MAC address can be found in the Advance Wi-Fi options, under MAC address.

 

Disable remote administration privileges

Disabling remote administration privileges is a great way to keep anyone out who is looking to access your security setting. This can be found in your router’s setting and once turned on, security settings can only be change when connected through a wired connection.

 

Try a mix of these

It is hard to completely secure a wireless network, but if you follow the steps above, you can rest assured that your signal will be better protected. Preferably, use all of the above steps to secure your Wi-Fi network instead of just one and make sure to turn off your wireless router when going on a holiday as an extra form of security.

Author James Mash 6.2.2013. | 17:02
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