How to Secure Your Wireless Network
If you use a wireless network, chances are good it is not secure. If you don't
make some important configuration changes on your wireless router after
installing it, your wireless network is wide open to hackers, curious neighbors
and people who would rather use your broadband internet service instead of
buying their own.
Several of my neighbors have a wireless network set up in their home, and from
my living room I can connect to three different networks in addition to my own.
I do this easily, using no special skills, software or equipment. All I do is
click on my wireless networking icon and select "view available wireless
networks". I choose one, click "connect", and in an instant I am using my
neighbor's internet connection instead of my own. Kind of creepy, isn't it?
Following are six things you can do to make your wireless network invisible and
impenetrable to the majority of intruders.
• Change the default password of your wireless router. This makes it harder for
a would-be intruder to access the router administration controls.
• Change the name of your SSID. The SSID (service set identifier) is the name of
your wireless network, and by default is usually the brand name of your wireless
router (like Linksys). Change this to a unique name of your choice. A good rule
of thumb to follow when setting up any type of network is to always change the
default settings to something else, which makes it harder for an intruder to get in.
• Use an encryption key. Most wireless routers have WEP encryption capability
(Wireless Equivalent Protocol), and the newer ones also have WPA (Wi-Fi
Protected Access). WEP is an older standard and less secure than WPA, so if you
have both, choose WPA. Even WEP is probably good enough, and if this is all you
have choose the highest bit encryption possible (usually 128 bit).
Once you set up encryption on your wireless router, write down the method you
are using as well as the key (a long string of cryptic-looking characters),
because you will need this to set up encryption on each of your computers that
will use the wireless network.
Disable broadcasting of your SSID. By default, the SSID (your wireless
network's name) is broadcast to anyone with a wireless network card. Although
this makes it easy to configure your computers to access your network, it also
makes it easy for outsiders to know about your network. By disabling SSID
broadcast, no one will ever see your network.
• Limit the number of IP addresses your wireless router allows on the network.
By default, your wireless router will assign an IP address to as many computers
that request one. If you limit the number of addresses that the router's DHCP
server assigns to just the number that you need, you will "block" all other
computers that try to connect to your network.
• Use MAC address filtering. You can configure your wireless router to only
allow certain computers on the wireless network by including each computer's MAC
address in the list of "allowed" users. A MAC address is a unique physical
address that is hard coded onto each network interface card. It is much like a
serial number, as every MAC address is unique.
Find your network card's MAC address by opening up a command prompt and typing
in ipconfig /all. Look for something that says "physical address", and the
series of letters and numbers following this is your MAC address. It will look
something like this: 00-06-5B-CE-DA-B5. Key this information into the wireless
router's MAC address filtering setup under MAC address 1. Repeat this process
for every computer on your network, using MAC address 2, 3, and so on.