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Wireless Security at Home

wirelessathomeMany people rush through setting up wireless home networks to get their Internet connectivity working as quickly as possible. While this is understandable, it is also risky because unless properly secured, wireless networks are a security problem waiting to happen. Today’s Wi-Fi networking products don’t always help the situation, either. Their security features are complicated and can be time consuming to set up correctly. You may wish to retain the services of a qualified technician to help you be sure the job gets done correctly. Here are some tips for how you can improve the security of your home wireless network.

  • Replace that old access point. If your access point is older than 2 or 3 years, it probably doesn’t include the latest security protocols. At a cost of $75 or less, an up-to-date access point is cheap insurance against having your computers hacked.
  • Change the default passwords on your wireless access point. The default passwords are simple, often posted on the manufacturer’s website, and well known to hackers. Change them immediately and use strong passwords.
  • Use WPA2 security, if available, and WPA at the least. Both WPA and WPA2 are vulnerable to a dictionary attack, so the most important thing is to choose a strong pre-shared key or passphrase.
  • Change the default SSID. Wireless access points use a network name called the SSID (Service Set Identifier). Manufacturers ship their products with the same SSID. While knowing the SSID does not by itself allow a hacker to break into your network, it is a start. More importantly, operating your access point with the default SSID suggests that security has not been handled well, thus encouraging hacking.
  • Do not auto-connect to open Wi-Fi networks. Connecting to an open Wi-Fi network, such as a free, public wireless hotspot or your neighbor’s wireless access point, exposes your computer to security risks. Most computers have a setting which will allow these connections to happen automatically without notifying you. Make sure auto-connect is disabled.
  • Enable the hardware firewall on your wireless access point. If your access point does not have a hardware firewall, don’t use it. Get another one that does.
  • Position your access point carefully. It is normal for Wi-Fi signals to leak out through walls of your home. While a small amount of signal leakage is not a problem, the further the signal spills out into the neighborhood, the easier it is for others to pick it up. That is the first step toward someone gaining access to your wireless access point without your permission. Position your access point near the center of your home, rather than near a window or an outside wall.
  • Turn off your access point if you aren’t using it. If it’s not turned on, hackers can’t break in.
  • If you don’t feel confident about the security of your wireless access point, don’t use it. Get advice and answers to your questions from a computer consultant who is knowledgeable about wireless security.

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