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Protect yourself from fire

Wireless Network Security

The best part of getting a new wireless router is being able hop on to the Internet from pretty much anywhere within a few hundred feet of that shiny new router.

It seems so easy right? Just plug in your router and then your laptop magically finds that wireless connection and away you go, surfing all over the world.

The one thing that people seem to forget or at least put a low priority on is the securing of this shiny new wireless network. This is easily verified by simply taking a wireless ready device into any subdivision and simply counting the number of unsecure wireless networks available.

Why secure the network?

For your protection and the protection of your home network, you have to secure your network. People pirate wireless signals all the time. You may have even done it yourself. You’re working on your laptop and all of a sudden you get the prompt asking to connect to “Linksys” or “Smith Family” or any other network out there that broadcasts its presence. If this network is not secure, you can join and use their bandwidth to surf or download copyrighted material or pretty much anything else you’d like to do.

If someone pirates access on you network (also called war driving when the person is actively driving around looking for unsecure networks), it exposes you to a significant amount of personal risk.

Downloading of movies or music should be the least of your concerns. If all someone did was steal a few songs by using your wireless, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. The problem is that people can be far more nefarious with what they do. If the videos or images they download contain child pornography, then not only is that contributing to a worldwide problem, but it also leaves you open for potential prosecution. 

When the police trace the IP addresses of where these downloads originate, it will point back to your wireless router. There is no way for the police to know that the hard drive these images were stored on is not actually a device you own. They can only verify the downloads went through your router to some PC/laptop that was connected. This is not the type of situation you want to find yourself trying to explain.

So how do you protect yourself? The simplest solution is to simply not use wireless connections and turn this feature off. The problem with this solution is that it’s not always practical or possible to have hard-wired connection. If you want to use wireless connections, but still feel secure, there are a few steps you can take.


WEP (Wired Equivalency Protocol) - WEP is the lowest default standard encryption you can enable. This uses what is known as a pre-shared key that must be entered on the connecting laptop in order to allow a successful connection. Use this if your laptop won’t support a higher encryption format.

WPA/WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access) – WPA is a higher level encryption that should be used whenever possible. This system offers greater security and protection for your data. This system also uses a pre-shared key (or passphrase) but encrypts at a higher level.

SSID (Service Set Identifier) - The SSID is the broadcast name you see associated with a wireless network like “Linksys” or “Smith Family”. Having the SSID on allows other users to easily see what networks are out there. If you turn off the SSID, it will simply make your network a little less visible to those looking for easy targets.

MAC Filtering – For people who want a greater level of security, using MAC filtering is a way to specify the exact computers you want to connect to your network. This uses the unique MAC number associated with your computer (like a snowflake, no two are the same) to allow the connection on your network.

I’d like to say that by using all of the above steps, you can completely prevent unwanted access to your network, but that’s just not possible. A dedicated and committed hacker can get access to your network if he really wants. He can do this in a million different ways, most of which do not even need to use a poorly protected wireless network.

By using the above steps to protect your wireless network, you a simply slowing down or stopping the casual pirate who will simply move on to easier targets rather than try to hack yours. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s definitely more effective than simply doing nothing
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