Simple Instructions on Securing Your Home or Business Wireless Network
Recently I visited my brother and sister-in-law on vacation in Portland, OR. I brought my Sprint internet access card because they don’t have a computer or internet. I didn’t need it as her neighbor was kind enough to have an open wireless access point I could tap into with no password. I resisted the temptation to look over her computer files and data. Many people are not so nice.
Are you effectively locked down from snooping eyes?
I asked my favorite security expert, Scott Poehlman from Wired Solutions LLC to give me some tips to help our customers with this issue. Here are our simple suggestions to get the job done.
3 Basic steps to take for a secure home wireless network, written by an IT geek who dfoes this for a living.
By default, most home routers have no security set up out of the box. This means that your neighbor can easily connect to your Wireless network and surf the web, without you knowing it. If that happens, they are using your bandwidth that you are paying for, to freely browse the internet. But that’s not all. Without the proper security in place, your router and any network device connected to it (computer, cell phone, etc) becomes visible to anyone that can see your Wireless signal. From there, it’s super easy for a hacker to connect to your computer and see your files, or even worse, steal/delete your data.
So what to do? First, if you are not computer savvy and are uncomfortable making changes to your router, then have a trusted friend or family member make the changes for you. You can also see the documentation that came with your router (it may be in a PDF file on the CD that came with it). Below are steps you should take to protect your home Wireless network.
To even begin you will need to do is open your router settings program with a computer that is connected to it via Ethernet cable. To do that simply open your web browser – Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox or whatever – and go to http://192.168.1.1. Go ahead and type that into your address bar (no, don’t Google search it).
Once inside do the following:
1. Change your SSID from Open security to WPA2.
Your SSID (short for Service Set Identifier, which is simply the name of your Wireless network) is what you connect to, to access the Internet. Out of the box, it requires no password to connect to it (so it’s Open). You’ll have to log in to your router’s settings and change the security to WPA2. This is the most secure setting currently available on most home routers. You’ll need to assign a security key (commonly called a passphrase). And please, don’t use your name, pet’s name, dad’s name, street name, or anything other common name that is associated to you or your family. Make it at least 8 characters long, using a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and characters. Kj4$ PM_r is a good example of a secure passphrase.
2. Don’t broadcast your SSID.
Who needs to know the name of your Wireless network? You do, of course. And anyone else that you want to access your Wireless network. But does your neighbor next door need to know? Or the guy driving by your house? Of course not. There is a setting to disable the broadcast of your SSID. Again, look at your router’s documentation on how to make this change (or have someone you trust do it). Now, no one can see your SSID in the “available network connections” list.
3. Change your router’s login password.
The next thing to do is change the password that you need to type to login to your router. For example, if you purchased a Cisco/Linksys brand router, you would access its home page by opening your web browser and going to http://192.168.1.1 as stated before. The default password is admin with the username staying blank. Problem is, everyone knows this. So if you don’t change it, a hacker who gained access to your wireless network (or even someone you allowed access by supplying them the passphrase), can simply type the address above, log into your router, and play havoc with your network. You don’t want this, of course, so change the password! All routers have an area where you can make this change. See the documentation that came with your router (it may be in a PDF file on the CD that came with it). Use the same rule of thumb as setting the passphrase for your Wireless SSID. (Don’t make them the same though)
Following these 3 basic steps will secure your home Wireless network from most outside threats. While a very skillful hacker can still get around even this security, they won’t bother trying. There are too many unsecured networks out there, so hackers don’t waste their time trying to break into the average joe’s home network that is configured securely. They’ll just move down the road to your neighbor’s unsecure network.
John Clark is President of Wow Web Works at http://wowwebworks.com, a web design and business marketing company in Kalamazoo, MI. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University.