Almost everyone today has a wireless network in their home, but not all are as secure as they should be. I have heard stories of people getting cease and desist orders because someone was downloading illegal content on their wireless network. In most of these cases, their wireless network was being hijacked from a neighbor because it wasn’t secure. If your name is on the bill, you are responsible for the traffic on your network so make sure you are protected.
What is a wireless network
All internet connections enter your house in some form or fashion. The method you choose to connect your devices to that internet connection can be categorized as wired or wireless. To connect devices wirelessly in your home, you would need to have a wireless access point or router. This is the device I will be talking about securing.
Placement is key
You might not think physical placement has anything to do with security but it can make an impact and should be considered the first step in setting up your wireless network. Place your wireless access point, or wireless router, as centrally-located as possible. Not only will this provide the best overall coverage in your home, it prevents your wireless signal from being broadcast too far outside your house where neighbors can connect. Placing your wireless access point next to a window will allow far greater range outside the house because there are no walls to block the signal.
Change your SSID
Your SSID is the name of your home wireless network that is broadcast so that you know what network to connect to. This is convenient to identify your network but should be changed from factory default. Anyone looking to hack your network can use the default network SSID to determine the type of access point you have. This makes it easier to hack the device. While naming your network “can’t hack this” might sound fun, it probably isn’t the best idea. Likewise, using any identifying information like “Sarah’s Wi-Fi” would be a bad idea and could make it easier for a hacker to perform identity theft or pinpoint your location. Choosing an SSID that doesn’t identify you or your location would be the best option.
Turning on the encryption on your device is probably the most important thing you can do. Almost all wireless access points will have a web page that you can access to configure them. Refer to your user manual to access this page. This is where you will be able to change all the settings I am referring to. When it comes to encryption, WEP is the least secure with WPA being the new standard. WPA-TKIP is the predecessor to WPA-AES, which is what you want to be using and provides the best level of protection.
Harden your Wi-Fi password
Once you have setup your encryption type, you will need to enter a password or passphrase that will be used to connect to your wireless network. Make sure it is at least 8 characters, preferably 14 or more, and includes some numbers and special characters. This might sound inconvenient when your friends ask for your wireless network password, but then again it may discourage them from needlessly connecting to your network just to check Facebook.
Change the admin account
One setting often overlooked is the Administrator account password. This is the account used to access the web page for changing configuration settings. This is usually left as the default password and can be easily guessed by anyone trying to hack your network. Make sure you change this password and if you want to go one step further, rename the account for additional security.
When was the last time you updated the software/firmware on your wireless access point or router? This is important to ensure that security updates are applied to your wireless network. It is just as important as applying security updates to your computer, but is rarely ever done. Many wireless access points have an option for automatically applying updates. This setting is usually turned off by default, so if you want to take advantage you will need to turn it on in the settings.
By following these suggestions, you can feel more comfortable that your home wireless network is secure from people trying to hide behind your network for illegal activity or worse, compromise your data and identity.