Wireless Network Security in 6 Easy Steps

by: Chris Kaminski

Connecting your home and office computers with a wireless network sure makes things convenient ...BUT the very feature that makes them so popular is also their biggest weakness! Anyone with the knowledge can intercept your signal and gain access to your network if it is not secure. The technicians at computerguyslive.com offer the following six easy steps to wireless security for your home or office.

1. Change the System ID: Devices come with a default system ID called the SSID (Service Set Identifier) or ESSID (Extended Service Set Identifier). It is easy for a hacker to find out what the default identifier is for each manufacturer of wireless equipment so you need to change this to something else. Use something unique- not your name or something easily guessed.

2. Disable Identifier Broadcasting: Announcing that you have a wireless connection to the world is an invitation for hackers. You already know you have one so you don't need to broadcast it. Check the manual for your hardware and figure out how to disable broadcasting.

3. Enable WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy): WEP encrypts your data so that only the intended recipient is supposed to be able to read it. As with all security measures there are ways around it, but by using encryption you will keep the novice hackers out of your systems. It is best to use 128bit rather than 40bit encryption (it is exponentially harder to crack).

4. Restrict Unnecessary Traffic: Many wired and wireless routers have built-in firewalls. They are not the most technically advanced firewalls, but they help create one more line of defense. Read the manual for your hardware and learn how to configure your router to only allow incoming or outgoing traffic that you have approved.

5. Change the Default Administrator Password: This is just good practice for ALL hardware and software. The default passwords are easily obtained and because so many people don't bother to take the simple step of changing them they are usually what hackers try first. Make sure you change the default password on your wireless router / access point to something that is not easily guessed like your last name.

6. Patch and Protect Your PC's: As a last line of defense you should have personal firewall software such as Zone Alarm Pro and anti-virus software installed on your computer. As important as installing the anti-virus software, you must keep it up to date. New viruses are discovered daily and anti-virus software vendors generally release updates at least once a week. You also must keep up to date with patches for known security vulnerabilities. For Microsoft operating systems you can use Windows Update to try and help keep your computer current with patches.

Following these steps will insure that hackers and hitchhikers don't surf on your wireless network, or more importantly, these steps help block unwanted access into your computer network, and your valuable data.