Wireless Networking (Wi-Fi) has made it so easy for anyone to use Internet on your computer, mobile phones, tablets and other wireless devices anywhere in the house without the clutter of cables.
This practice, also known as piggybacking, is bad for three reasons:
- It will increase your monthly Internet bill especially when you have to pay per byte of data transfer.
- It will decrease your Internet access speed since you are now sharing the same internet connection with other users.
- It can create a security hazard* as others may hack your computers and access your personal files through your own wireless network.
Follow these 6 steps to secure your wireless network
1) Encrypt your Wi-Fi Network:
When you use a Wi-Fi network for accessing the internet, every piece of data you send and receive over the air can be easily snooped by anyone with the right set of tools. Packet sniffers can be used by even the most novice of users to sniff your data. This means that a hacker can not only see which websites are you accessing but also get the login details of your personal and professional accounts.
Encryption basically involves scrambling the data that is transmitted and received by you while using a wireless network. This means that even if a hacker intercepts your data transmission, (s)he will not be able to exploit the information contained within it.
2) Replace default passwords on your router with strong passwords:
The biggest mistake most wireless internet users make is not changing default passwords on their routers. Hackers utilize public databases that contain default passwords and usernames from virtually every manufacturer. This enables them to change the security settings of your router according to their needs. Using a strong password for your router ensures that hackers and miscreants cannot change your network’s security settings. To change the password on your router, visit Administration settings on your router’s settings page. Also, do not store passwords in browsers as they can be easily made visible.
3) Keep your firmware up to date:
Router vendors regularly release firmware updates and post them on their websites. You should occasionally check the manufacturer’s website to see if a new firmware update has been released. Newer routers will automatically inform you when new firmware is available.
4) When not using your internet network, turn it off:
This is self explanatory. If you are not using your network, turning it off saves you from giving extra time to hackers to try and hack into your wireless network. While it may be impractical to turn every device on your network off every time you are not using the network, it still is advisable to do so during extended periods of non use.
5) Use scary names to discourage Wi-Fi theft:
If your wireless network has a name like C:virus.exe, most people who might otherwise access your network will not for the fear of getting their devices infected. You can use your creativity to find more dangerous names for your wireless network.
6) Filter MAC Addresses
Whether you have a laptop or a Wi-Fi enabled mobile phone, all your wireless devices have a unique MAC address (this has nothing to do with an Apple Mac) just like every computer connected to the Internet has a unique IP address. For an added layer of protection, you can add the MAC addresses of all your devices to your wireless router’s settings so that only the specified devices can connect to your Wi-Fi network.
MAC addresses are hard-coded into your networking equipment, so one address will only let that one device on the network. It is, unfortunately, possible to spoof a MAC address*, but an attacker must first know one of the MAC addresses of the computers that are connected to your Wireless network before he can attempt spoofing.
To enable MAC address filtering, first make a list of all your hardware devices that you want to connect to your wireless network**. Find their MAC addresses, and then add them to the MAC address filtering in your router’s administrative settings. You can find the MAC address for your computers by opening Command Prompt and typing in “ipconfig /all”, which will show your MAC address beside the name “Physical Address”. You can find the MAC addresses of Wireless mobile phones and other portable devices under their network settings, though this will vary for each device.
To conclude, MAC Address filtering with WPA2 (AES) encryption (and a really complex passphrase) is probably the best way to secure your wireless network.
Once you have enabled the various security settings in your wireless router, you need to add the new settings to your computers and other wireless devices so that they all can connect to the Wi-Fi network. You can select to have your computer automatically connect to this network, so you won’t have to enter the SSID, passphrase and other information every time you connect to the Internet.
Your wireless network will now be a lot more secure and intruders may have a tough time intercepting your Wi-Fi signals.