Wi-Fi is a great technology, allowing easy, low cost internet sharing without the hassles of running network cables. However, this also means that it is much more likely that someone may try to gain access to your network for malicious purposes. Failure to setup your network correctly can allow strangers to use your internet, and access any shared files on your devices. They can also eavesdrop on much of the web content that you view, possibly capturing your usernames and passwords in the process. It is vital then to adequately protect your network. It is certainly easier to just plug in your new router with the default settings, however this can expose your network to significant risk. This article will go through a few helpful steps on how to protect yourself.
The first step is to change all user names and passwords off the default. Leaving an open router with the network name “linksys” is an invitation for people to abuse your network. Pick a unique name for your network, and choose a password that can’t be guessed easily. Configuring your security settings correctly is also important. WEP is an older method of securing networks that is easily bypassed today. WPA, and the improved WPA2, are the settings you are looking for. You should also change your password often, so that if someone does happen to gain access, they cannot continue to do so forever. Changing passwords often will also reduce the number of users who know your passwords. Maintaining security can also require you to set up multiple networks to keep your personal or business traffic separate from guest traffic. If you have company over, or if your business has a waiting room where your clients want internet access. Some newer routers are able to setup two separate network IDs, or you can use two physical routers to keep your private information secure while allowing others to get web access. While this may give the appearance of being suspicious of the people around you, this is what is required to keep a secure network.
A second step is to make sure that every machine on your network is also protected. If attackers can put a virus on a machine inside your network, all of the work you did earlier will not be effective against an attack from inside the network. Practicing safe web browsing habits, such as not installing random software from websites you cannot completely trust, and making the time to install software updates can also help prevent your machines from being compromised. Installing software updates can be disruptive your work, but they often address security vulnerabilities that can reduce the security of your network.
Another step you can take is to limit the range of your wireless network by repositioning your router. If you are near a parking lot or park, you may consider moving your router to the far side of the home or business. By keeping your wireless signal mostly inside your building, you force attackers to look elsewhere, or to use cumbersome directional antennas. If you will be traveling and not needing your Wi-Fi for a few days, you should turn off your equipment, both to save power and to prevent hackers from having time to run attacks against your network.
A forth step is to configure your router to assign a device list on your router. This can be a time consuming process, but the result can help protect against intrusion. Every device will have a MAC address, a hexadecimal number that uniquely identifies it. Configuring your router to only allow access to devices that you own will provide an extra layer of security. This isn’t perfect, however. An attacker can monitor your traffic and may be able to discover the MAC address of one of your devices, and configure their device to use the same address. This isn’t an adequate level of security by itself, but in addition with the steps above it can provide an additional amount of security.
Running a secure network can be time consuming, but the risks from not doing so are not to be underestimated. Keeping your private files safe from prying eyes is worth an hour or two of setup work at the start. Take the time to research how to setup your model of router correctly, and don’t settle for the default settings. There are lists of the default settings for every popular router available online, so you must reconfigure whichever piece of equipment you buy. By using strong passwords, installing topantivirus software on every machine on your network, and installing all software updates, both for your router and your devices, you can have a safe and secure network.