Securing Wireless Networks


Home As many families acquire more computers it is becoming more and more common to have networked computers in most households. More and more these networks are wireless. WiFi networks free people of hassle of stringing network cable from room to room but WiFi networks are notoriously insecure by default. Most of the time security breaches come in the form of some neighbor mooching high speed Internet access. However it can go beyond that. By accessing somebody’s unsecured wireless network, someone mooching a broadband connection can illegally download copyrighted music, movies, and software. However it isn’t just what somebody can download on someone else’s dime but the nefarious stuff that can be placed on computers on. There is no shortage of Malware that can be put on a computer with that can turn it into a spam zombie, or a clandestine server storing and distributing unsavory content such as child pornography. It the unsecure wireless networks that allow people to put this kind of malware on computers.

Step 1 Encryption

WiFi Routers has some kind of data encryption, this digitally scrambles data before transmitting. Those in charge of the wireless network setup a password in order to get onto the network. The first generation of WiFi (802.11b) wireless networking equipment supports a data encryption method called Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP). WEP encryption was good but has since been cracked so that now anybody with sufficient computing power can break through the encryption. Home users probably won’t have to deal with an intruder going to these extents just to mooch a broadband Internet connection but newer wireless gear comes with heavier wireless protected access (WPA) encryption. WPA is far safer than WEP because WPA has yet to be breached but it is already being superseded by WPA2. To ensure the highest degree of safety use the highest level of encryption that your wireless networking equipment supports. If your WiFi router and adapters have no support encryption support or even if it only supports WEP most of the major brands of wireless networking equipment can be updated to support WPA or WPA 2 by updating the firmware of the wireless networking equipment. Firmware updating must be done carefully, a bad update will turn a WiFi router or card into an expensive paper weight. Read the support page on the web site for the manufacturer of wireless equipment being used so that the right update files are downloaded and installed. Updating firmware isn’t that difficult when you know what you are doing and it’s a lot better than sending your most sensitive data through the air in the clear.

Step 3 SSID

By default Wireless routers are announcing its presence to the world. Wireless routers have a setting called the Service Set Identifier or SSID to help wireless network adapters identify the network to connect to. By default the SSID name is usually set the name of the manufacturer of the wireless router. The SSID name should be renamed to something that cannot be easily guessed. By default wireless routers also transmit the SSID so that new computers can easily join the network, home users don’t add new computers to their networks very often, so the SSID broadcasting should be turned off. When it is necessary to add new computers to the wireless network it can be done manually, the documentation for your wireless router will tell you how to do this.

Step 4 Limit the number of IP addresses available

Network routers that have a built in DHCP server have the ability to set the size of the range of IP addresses that are available to computers to connect to the network. By limiting the pool of available IP addresses to the same number of computers that are using on your network there won’t be any available IP addresses for any intruders who may try to find your wireless network.

Step 5 MAC address filtering

This has nothing to do with computers made by Apple Computer. Every network adapter has an address hard coded into to it this is called the Media Access Control address or MAC address. Wireless routers can be set to only let through the computers that you give permission to access the wireless network. This is done through the setup utility for the wireless router. MAC addresses of the network adapters in the computers intended to get access to the wireless network are entered into the setup utility and then only those computers can have access to the network.


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