Securing Wireless Networks

NOTE: The information covered in this section pertains to any Internet connection (T1, Fixed Wireless, DSL, Dial-Up, etc.) through a wireless router (Linksys, Netgear, Belkin, etc.)

As more and more people look at wireless technologies for the ease and convenience of setting up their home or office network, they don’t always remember or know that there are steps they need to take to make certain that their network is secure from outside intrusion. Practices like piggybacking (connecting to a wireless network, such as your neighbors, and using that Internet connection without the owner’s knowledge) and wardriving (the act of searching for a wireless network from a vehicle) are becoming increasingly more popular.

Why should this concern me?

  • Individuals who piggyback on your connection may be using it for innocent purposes; however, they may also be conducting illegal activities that you, as the owner of the connection, may be legally accountable for.
  • Allowing piggyback connections to go through your wireless router has the potential of slowing down your Internet connection.
  • Individuals may be able to monitor your online activity and steal personal information, such as your online banks username and password. They may even access files stored directly on your computer.
  • “We live in a small community and trust our neighbors, this doesn’t concern us.” That may be true; however, there are many sites online that publish locations of wireless networks that have been discovered by people utilizing them.

What can I do?

Because of the number of different wireless routers currently available on the market, we cannot directly assist you with making any of the suggested changes outlined on this site. Much of the information necessary to make these changes is discussed in the user manual that came with your wireless router. You may also check with the company you purchased your wireless router from, or the manufacturer of the equipment, for further assistance.

  • Change your router’s Admin password – By default, many wireless routers come pre-configured with a default Admin username and password for ease of setup. Because these defaults are widely known it is easy for an individual to log into your router without your knowledge.
  • Disable Identifier Broadcasting – In an open wireless area, such as a local coffee shop, it is necessary to have your wireless router broadcast its presence so users can easily connect to it. In a home or office environment, you are the only one that needs to know you have a wireless network setup. Disabling this feature will make it harder for someone to “discover” your wireless network.
  • Enable MAC Authentication – Every device you attempt to connect to your wireless network has its own unique MAC (Media Access Control) address. Using Mac Authentication allows you to control who can access your wireless network.
  • Use WEP or WPA Encryption – WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) and WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) allow you to encrypt information sent between wireless devices. If your equipment supports both standards, it is preferable to use the more secure WPA feature.
  • Rename your SSID – By default, many wireless routers come pre-configured with a default SSID/ESSID. If possible, change your default SSID/ESSID to make it more difficult for someone to guess and gain access to your network.
  • Firewalls and Anti-virus – Even if you do not have a wireless network, it is always a good idea to have an up-to-date Firewall (software and/or hardware based) and anti-virus software running on your computers and network.
  • File Sharing – If you do not need to share files over your network, you should consider disabling file sharing on your computer. If you need to share files over your network, look at creating a dedicated folder for storing those files and share out only that folder, not your entire hard drive. If possible, passwords protect your shared folders/files for added protection.

About BTInet
Server hosting, Linux, Windows, Sun, Solaris, Dedicated servers, virtual private servers, firewalls, internet service provider, exchange, oracle, SQL server

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