November 27, 2007

Securing Your Wireless Network

As more and more people buy laptops instead of desktop, or smart phones with wifi access we will begin to see a huge in crease in wireless networks being set up. I did a little experiment about a few years ago and set up my laptop to search out and log every wireless signal t saw while I was driving through various neighborhoods (this is called war driving) I expected to see maybe 100 wireless networks and knew about half were going to be insecure. What I found was astonishing. Over 700 wireless networks and less than 1/3 of them were secure. This was in an area of about 5 square miles. Not big at all. It amazed me that I could literally park anywhere and was able to get an internet connection. Because of this, I wrote a small guide on things you should do to secure your wireless network.

Setting Up Your Wireless Network:
Key words have been linked to their definitions so you can get a better understanding of each term.

  • The first thing you should do with any device you buy is change the default administrator password. This go for routers as well. Any security you put in place is useless if the person can just connect to your router and change the settings.

  • Change the default SSID to something familiar to you. The SSID is the name of your network, changing from the default helps you recognize your network and ensure you connect to it and not someone else's by mistake.

  • Do not broadcast your SSID. Although it is easy to see networks that don't broadcast the SSID, you can't connect to them unless you know their name. So by not broadcasting it, the SSID can kind of act like a user name, while your encryption will act like a password.

  • Turn on Wireless Encryption. If your router and wireless card support it (any made in the last 2-3 years should) use WPA or WPA2 (both are strong forms of wireless encryption) Older routers and wireless cards may not support those, in which case use WEP. (WEP is better than nothing, but is considered a weak encryption)

  • If you don't expect visitors using your network, use the MAC address filter built into most routers. MAC addresses are unique identifiers on all electronics. By enabling the filter, you can make sure your router only connects to devices you tell it to (you will need to enter the MAC address for each piece of equipment that will be connecting into the filter list)

  • If you live in a small house/apartment, turn down the power of the antennas so your wireless signal only reaches where you need it to. There is no reason to give your neighbors and people passing by free net access.

How to do each of these will vary from router to router, so consult your instruction manual, or give the manufacturer's technical support a call and they will happily assist you.

Microsoft has some tips on increasing performance of your wireless network:

Original post I Worte: (read through the comments, anti-online has a lot of smart people)

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