With the abundance of portable devices being used these days, most LANs (Local Area Networks) are now wireless; whether they are implemented for regular home or business use. Of course, with this free flow of data travelling through the air, the greatest concern most people have is whether a wireless LAN is truly secure, and what can be done in terms of security. Here are a few steps you can take to protect yourself.
1. Make sure you are using at least WPA encryption. Because many networks are using old hardware or operating systems, many routers are set to WEP encryption by default. It used to be thought WEP was secure for most light traffic use, but the latest WEP cracking tools can break WEP encryption in a matter of minutes, and many can be downloaded for free.
So, not only should you make sure you purchase hardware that supports WPA TKIP mode as a minimum (and preferably devices that are WPA AES capable or WPA2 certified devices), but also update your router accordingly. If you are using WEP only devices, check with the vendor to see if firmware or driver updates are available to upgrade the device to WPA mode.
2. Set a secure router access password. By gaining access to your router, data thieves can disable most security you have configured. Although some routers don’t support special characters such as $%&@, you can still come up with a good key using a random combination of both upper and lower case letters and numbers. Avoid using easy to guess passwords like “Password” or “Home123”. Try to configure a more complicated pattern by avoiding words altogether and numbers in sequence. The longer your password is, the better off you’ll be. Don’t be afraid to use the maximum number of characters allowed. You can also write it down and store it in a secure place for future reference if needed. You need not be too concerned about forgetting it, as you can copy and paste the password onto the router and your local setting while setting up the network, and should rarely, if ever need to enter them again. If you do happen to forget/lose your key and need to re-enter it, most routers have a hardware reset to restore everything to the factory defaults.
3. Change the default network name. The SSID (Service Set Identifier) or network name also comes with a factory default. If you leave it as is, instead of changing it to something unique, you are leaving a clue for hackers that the network was set up by novices, and may be easily susceptible to their attacks. As with your password, try to come up with a unique name. Though in this case, it need not be cryptic, you should avoid obvious names that could be easily linked to your home or business.
4. Install wireless intelligent protection switching (IPS) devices. Systems such as the Cisco Unified Wireless Network are designed to monitor who is accessing your network, and can prevent unauthorized access.
5. Disable remote login and wireless administrating. Most default usernames are set to Admin, and once the username is known, it doesn’t take much work for a virus or worm to crack the password and force their way into your network. Fortunately, most routers disable remote login by default, but you should verify this while setting up your network, and check to make sure it stays that way from time to time, just to be safe. Turning off the setting that allows administrating the router through a wireless connection will require you to connect with a LAN cable to address any administration issues. But this also disables any wireless hacking into the router, which leads to increased security.
This is a guest post by Sarah Brooks from free people search. She is a Houston based freelance writer and blogger. Questions and comments can be sent to brooks.sarah23 @ gmail.com.