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How do I secure my wireless network?

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How to secure my wi-fi network

Have you ever been looking for a a Wi-Fi connection and noticed a list of names nearby with the word unsecured written on them? If you have ever clicked on one of them, you’ll know that it gets you onto the internet without any further challenges. If you use a wireless modem or router that is exactly how your home internet connection looks unless you have it properly secured.

Luckily by following a few simple rules it isn’t hard to make your wireless connections tough enough to make the average hacker move on down the road to the next open Wi-Fi point.

  1. Secure access using WPA2
    WPA2 or Wi-Fi Protected Access II is a set of protocols and certifications prepared by the Wi-Fi Alliance to protect wireless networks from unauthorized access. WPA2 is the most recent in a line of different protection protocols, so you should check to see whether your wireless router or modem provides WPA2. You can do this by entering the model number into google and searching for manufacturers detailed information, or consulting the manual that came with the device. If the device has no security protocol, or only offers WEP ar WPA1, then it is time for a new device.
  2. Make sure you use a strong password to log onto your wireless network
    The protection for any system is only as strong as the weakest part. Often in terms of computer security, it’s the users that are the weak link in the chain. The is no point in protecting access to wireless networks if you make the password required to get in “12345″. A weak password can be cracked in a matter of seconds by software running on simple desktop computers and even cell phones. If you are curious about how long it would take to crack any of your current passwords, pay a visit to this website and see for yourself.
    In order to make your passwords strong it needs to fit with the following conditions: 

    a.  Make sure you don’t use the password that the router came with.
    b.  The password must be at least 15 characters long.
    c.  It must be made up of a mixture of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.
    d.  You must avoid using any words that relate directly to you are are therefore easily guessed (Like a pets or childs name, or a sports team name.)
    e. Alter words that can be found in a dictionary to make them harder to scan against (eg Using M1lk  instead of Milk.)

  3. Change the name of your wireless point
    All wireless access points will come with a name  (SSID) pre-installed. It is often simply the brand name or model number of the device. You should change this to something which will allow you to identify it, but won’t allow someone else to link it to you (Like “21NewStreet” or “DavidJonesWireless” for example.) There are some suggestions that “hiding” your wireless point so that it is invisible to anyone who doesn’t know its name will increase its security however it has been shown that even a hidden wireless access point is easy to discover, and simply forces connected devices to use more power.

2 Comments

  1. Scott says:

    You forgot MAC filtering, and optional VPN connection over wifi.

    • Chris Hails says:

      Thanks for the feedback Scott, MAC filtering is indeed an option you can look into using on your router. There is some debate about the effectiveness of doing this when valid MAC numbers can be sniffed by a determined hacker and then spoofed to assist with gaining access but it’s another layer of defense if you have the skills and know-how to configure.

      A VPN connection is certainly a good investment if you’re accessing sensitive systems (say work networks/tools) over a free coffee shop wi-fi as it encrypts your network traffic. And of course they are increasingly popular with many people trying to find content and use entertainment services outside of New Zealand.

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