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Is Your Wireless Secure?

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Wireless networking is no longer the next big thing. Just like computers are no longer the next big thing. They are both everyday things that some have become to depend upon. The 802.11 family lets us move from room to room whether it be at home or in the office, but it also lets your neighbor the international spammer use your network freely. The next thing you know the Feds are knocking down your door and confiscating your computers. Yes even the one with the presentation you are about to give tomorrow that could save the company.

People don’t know, understand, or simply just don’t care about security in the computer world. Wireless security is far from perfect, but having something is better than nothing. Something will deter the local Hot-Spot jumper from getting on your network and downloading illegal music and video files. When they find your network and have no obstacles keeping them from accessing why move on? It’s just what they are looking for. Most Hot-Jumpers don’t know enough to get past the simplest security measures you can implement.

To start use WEP! WEP stands for Wired Equivalent Privacy not Wireless Encryption Protocol which is a common misconception. Sure a person like me can pop that open in 10 to 15 minutes, but most people (me included) with this knowledge don’t care to do such things.

Better yet use WPA! WPA stands for Wi-FI Protected Access. It is the new and improved WEP. If you are about to buy new make sure it offers WPA. If you already have the equipment check the manufactures website for Firmware updates/upgrades. A lot of times the web console of your wireless device will have an auto feature that does this for you. Do this at least once a month. Put a note in a tickler file so you will not forget.

A couple other things that are a must. Turn off your SSID Broadcast. This is the feature that allows users to auto-detect that there is a network and what the name of that network is. So by turning this off they will drive right by and never know you where there. That is unless they know other ways to look for you, but there again most don’t. I also recommend MAC address limiting. This is a great feature that is so underutilized due to the amount of administration it requires. I say use it and put up with that. It is simply telling your router which network cards are allowed to receive a network address for your network.

WEP, WPA, SSID Broadcast, and MAC address limiting all together would be a great package that would deter even the most skilled. Deter just because of the trouble, but still not impossible. One of the Best and most secure ways to date is to use an authentication server, but we will not get into that here. These few suggestions should stop most and you may even see your Internet speed go up. If it does you know you caught someone freeloading and good for you.

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About Ian Philpot

  • Eric Olsen

    very important information Ian, I didn’t really realize the implications – thanks and welcome!

  • more strangely (stupidly?), wireless access ponits appear to arrive, new, setup to have no security by default. Which means YOU, the person buying it and setting it up, have to know and understand at least a little.
    My own example: bought a Belkin wired/wireless router. Belkin are generally a good make of network stuff. Well this router came with default settings as no encryption and broadcast SSID. About 10/15 minutes after it was switched on and plugged into the cable modem, we had 3 “wi-jackers” connected to it. An even stupider thing is, it’s entirely possible that not one of them even realised they were connected to some random router.
    Needless to say, changed the settings pretty quick. So far, so good. Could also turn on MAC address filtering if need be, which’d add another level of security (it’s pretty hard to fool routers about your MAC address)