Sunday, February 19, 2006

Home wireless network security

Wireless networks are great, most laptop computers now days come with built in wireless capability. I have one at home and use them at airports and coffee shops around the world when I am traveling for business. I bought my wife a new HP computer for Christmas and we were getting her setup on the internet and she said should I connect to the one wireless network that is found. I took a look at the network and I could immediately tell that it was not our network and had to be a wireless network of our neighbors.

There are several things that should remember when installing you wireless network to increase your security and prevent hackers and potential identity theft. Shop for books on securing your wireless network! First of all to access the wireless network router's setup screen you will need to know the website address of the router. This should be in the router's user manual.

1) Change Default Administrator Passwords (and Usernames)
First things first change the user name and password for the admistrator settings. Most hackers know what the default setting is.

2) Turn on (Compatible) WPA / WEP Encryption
All Wi-Fi equipment supports some form of "encryption." Make sure you enable the encryption on the router. You will also have to setup the laptop to recognize this encryption setting as well.

3) Change the Default SSID
Access points and routers all use a network name called the SSID. In my example my neighbor had obviously not disabled the SSID. As a result of this I could see their network and connect to it if I wanted to. Free wireless internet if you can depend on it. Since our SSID had been changed and we also set the router to not broadcast SSID which means that you need to know the name of the SSID to even be able to start to connect to the wireless router.

4) Enable MAC Address Filtering
Each piece of Wi-Fi gear possesses a unique identifier called the "physical address" or "MAC address." Access points and routers keep track of the MAC addresses of all devices that connect to them. Many such products offer the owner an option to key in the MAC addresses of their home equipment, that restricts the network to only allow connections from those devices. Do this, but also know that the feature is not so powerful as it may seem. Hacker software programs can fake MAC addresses easily.

5) Disable SSID Broadcast
In Wi-Fi networking, the access point or router typically broadcasts the network name (SSID) over the air at regular intervals. This feature was designed for businesses and mobile hotspots where Wi-Fi clients may come and go. In the home, this feature is unnecessary, and it increases the likelihood an unwelcome neighbor or hacker will try to log in to your home network. Fortunately, most Wi-Fi access points allow the SSID broadcast feature to be disabled by the network administrator.

6) Assign Static IP Addresses to Devices
Most home networkers grativate toward using dynamic IP addresses. DHCP technology is indeed quick and easy to set up. Unfortunately, this convenience also works to the advantage of network attackers, who can easily obtain valid IP addresses from a network's DHCP pool. Turn off DHCP on the router or access point, set a fixed IP address range, then set each connected device to match. Use a private IP range (like 10.0.0.x) to prevent computers from being directly reached from the Internet.

7) Position the Router or Access Point Safely
Wi-Fi signals normally reach to the exterior of a home. A small amount of "leakage" outdoors is not a problem, but the further this signal reaches, the easier it is for others to detect and exploit. Wi-Fi signals often reach across streets and through neighboring homes. When installing a wireless home network, the position of the access point or router determines it's reach. Try to position these devices near the center of the home rather than near windows to minimize this leakage.

8) Turn Off the Network During Extended Periods of Non-Use
The ultimate in security measures, shutting down the network will most certainly prevent outside hackers from breaking in!

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1 comment:

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