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Worry-free wireless

01 Oct 10

With no cables to run around the house, wireless networks are convenient and easy to install, so homes and small businesses with high-speed internet access are adopting them at a rapid pace. But with the convenience of broadband access, also comes the risk of internet intruders.
Wireless works by sending information over radio waves, making it more vulnerable to intruders. Like signals from mobile or cordless phones, signals from a wireless network can also be intercepted, raising the possibility of theft or fraud. Consumers need to understand that since you can’t physically prevent someone from connecting to a wireless network, some additional steps are needed to ensure a safe and positive experience.
Securing home wireless networks shouldn’t be difficult or timeconsuming. Work with your staff so they can proactively advise end-users on some simple tips to enjoy worry-free wireless. I recommend four essential steps to securing home wireless networks, regardless of brand:
1. Change the default password Access points and routers have a default password set by the factory. Users are asked for a password when changing their settings, for example, Linksys by Cisco wireless products use ‘admin’ as the default. Hackers know these defaults and will try them to access your wireless device and change your network settings. To thwart any unauthorised changes, update the password so it will be hard to guess and do so on a regular basis.
2. Enable WPA Encryption Encryption allows protection for data that is transmitted over a wireless network. Wired Equivalency Privacy (WEP) and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) offer different levels of security for wireless communication. WPA2 is considered to be the most secure, compared to WEP and WPA. To protect the information as it passes over the airwaves, users should enable the highest level of encryption that is supported by their network equipment.
3. Disable SSID broadcast By default, most wireless networking devices are set to broadcast the SSID, so anyone can easily join the wireless network with just this information. But hackers will also be able to connect, so unless running a public hotspot, it’s best to disable SSID broadcast. You may think it is more convenient to broadcast your SSID so that you can click on it to join your network, but you can configure the devices on your network to automatically connect to a specific SSID without broadcasting the SSID from your router.
4. Enable MAC address filtering
Some brands of router offer the ability to enable MAC (Media Access Control) address filtering – this is not MAC as in Mac computers. With MAC address filtering, you specify which computers can access your network. The MAC address is a unique series of numbers and letters assigned to every networking device. With MAC address filtering enabled, wireless network access is provided solely for wireless devices with specific MAC addresses. For example, you can specify only the computers in your house to access your wireless network. It would be very difficult for a hacker to access your network using a random MAC address.
Fortunately, there are ways to simplify the process of properly securing and protecting a network. Encouraging consumers to take these precautions ensures they can really enjoy their wireless experiences.