Three Important Techniques for Securing a Wireless Network by Gary Hendricks

Have you recently gone wireless? If you have a wireless network at home or in the office, it is critical to have it secured. Wireless networks are prone to attacks from outsiders - perhaps even more so than with wired networks. This article shows how you can implement three techniques to secure a given wireless network.

1. Disable Broadcast SSID

One of the key things to do is to secure a wireless network is to disable broadcast SSID. WiFi WLANs identify themselves with a service set identifier (SSID), which names the network and works (loosely) like a password.

Unfortunately, most wireless access points transmit their SSIDs by default, which is pretty much like standing in the street and shouting your bank card PIN. Unless you have equipment that requires the access point to broadcast the SSID, turn this feature off. If you do leave it on, change the SSID to something other than the default.

2. Turn on WEP

Another thing to do is to turn on WEP, and use 128-bit keys. You shouldn't rely on WEP to be absolutely secure, but the cracker next door isn't less likely to have the tools, systems, or know-how to break it. WEP is a lot better than nothing (unless you're using 64-bit keys, which are far weaker than 128-bit keys).

Access points and adapters typically let you set up the WEP key either by typing a passphrase or by entering a hexadecimal (base 16) value. We've had trouble making passphrases work across multiple vendors' equipment, so we recommend generating a hexadecimal value using a long passphrase and then using the hexadecimal value everywhere. Keep a copy of the key somewhere secure because you can't be sure you can regenerate it later.

3. Set MAC address restrictions

You should also set MAC address restrictions. Most access points let you list the physical (Media Access Control — MAC) address of equipment allowed to connect to your LAN. A typical MAC address looks something like 00-0C-38-55-F4-AD. You can use a MAC restriction list containing all your devices to ensure only authorized devices connect, although you can't limit who might be able to listen.


Hopefully, this article has shown you how you can secure a wireless network to give it some basic level of protection against attackers. Good luck and happy networking!

Gary Hendricks runs a hobby site on building computers. Visit his website at [ parked domain] for tips and tricks on assembling a PC, as well as buying good computer components.

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