Securing Your Wireless Network

16 September 2010
Comments: 0
16 September 2010, Comments: 0

So you’ve decided to get your wireless up and running. Congatulations on going cable free! But guess what? You now have several other considerations to mull over before you can indulge in wire-free surfing and connectivity. Following on from my last post, this week I’ll deal with wireless security do’s and don’ts, and give some advice on basic wireless troubleshooting.

The first and foremost thing to consider when configuring a wireless network is security. With a wireless network, you’re essentially broadcasting your network to the world (ok, not the world, but certainly a sizable area around your property). If your wireless network is not secure, anyone with a wireless device can access it, and hunt through your computers, files, folders and start loading malicious software on it… not good. So, you need security on your wireless network. Luckily, security is built in as standard on all wireless routers and access points these days.

There are several types of security settings, along with other options you can use. The 1st type is WEP, and I’m still surprised by how many wireless networks I see using this. It’s an outdated security mode that can be hacked by someone that knows what they’re doing inside 60 seconds. The ONLY reason to use this is if your devices are so old they’re not compatible with newer security types. If this is the case, seriously consider upgrading! The next type is WPA and WPA2. These are what you should be using. WPA2 is the more secure if your router supports it, so if you have this option, take it. It’s pretty much un-hackable. You can use a logical word as the security passphrase and the system should be up and running within a few mouse clicks. It is very simple to configure, especially on routers designed to be used at home such as the Netgear products.

In addition, some routers have the ability to lock down your network in other ways. For example you can opt to hide your SSID (this is the network name that appears when you scan for networks on a client device like a laptop). This means that people in the vicinity would not be able to “see” the wireless network on their device, and could only connect to it if a) they knew it was there and b) knew the name and passphrase to access it.

Another option is called MAC address filtering. Every device that connects to a network has a unique MAC address hard wired in. MAC filtering allows you to select which devices you want to allow to connect to your network. Both of these are added measures to improve security, but DONT be tempted to use these and leave the main security off. To someone in the know, it’s easy to detect hidden networks, and equally easy to mimic a MAC address, so in my experience, it’s not worth bothering with these options, as they can often cause more headache than they’re worth.

I can’t stress how important it is to secure your wireless network. Without this security, it would be like leaving the front door to your house open for anyone to walk in and take whatever they want. If you need help or advice on securing your wireless network, or feel that you need a wireless network installed, please feel free to contact our sales or support team.

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