Is your wireless network secure?
As technology continues to grow at warp factor 10, one thing has become more increasingly common. That is, we are a wireless culture when it comes to computing.
In the early days of the Internet regarding wireless, people actually used to have to search pretty hard to find a “hot spot.” Nowadays, just about every place we go to has a Wi-Fi hot spot. Whether it’s your home or out in public, Wi-Fi is widely available, but is it secure?
The most common place that people are using Wi-Fi is in the home. Home networking is seeing less wires and more Wi-Fi and to declare it boldly, it’s just a standard now. However, many home networks are wide open to hackers, and these hackers do not need to be in your home. The following should help secure your wireless network.
When you purchased your wireless router, it came with a default name. For example, it may say “Linksys” or “Netgear” and may have a model number. This is called the SSID, or Service Set Identifier, but simply put, it’s the name of your network. This should be one of the first things you should change immediately upon installing a new router. If your router is a few years old and you never did this, now is the time to change this.
The reason you want to change this is that hackers and bandwidth thieves (those who steal other people’s Internet) are looking for networks that are unsecured. Having the default device name from the factory is a green light for them to start using your Internet without you knowing it. Once they are on your network, they can remote into your computer and steal personal information.
To change the name of your network, you will want to visit your router’s control panel. Sometimes this is a shortcut on your desktop, but most of the time, you will type in your router’s IP address, e.g. 192.168.0.1 in the address bar of your browser. Check your owner’s manual for this information as well as the default login information.
Secondly, most people continue to use the default login information for their wireless router. Usually it is something like “Admin” for your username and no password, or some combination thereof. If I have just correctly guessed your router’s webpage login, or came very close to it, imagine what someone else, say, an experienced hacker, or worse, your neighbor next door can do! Bottom line, change that username and password as soon as possible. This, however, is the login information to get to your router’s webpage, not the password for connecting to the Internet.
When connecting to wireless, you should always have to enter a password in order to connect to the router, which connects you to the Internet.
Then your wireless network does not require a password to connect. To put it more bluntly, anyone with a smartphone, laptop or a desktop equipped with wireless could connect to your network. That means free Internet for the other guy, or worse, they could use that connection as a front door, that’s right, I said “front door” to getting into your computer and stealing sensitive information, taking over your network and much more. In short, set a password in order for people to connect.
To set a Wi-Fi password, login to your router’s webpage, and look for a place named “Wireless Settings” or something of that nature. This is also the same area that you changed your wireless network name or SSID. Change the security to WPA2 and then you will be prompted to create a password. Once you have completed that, you are done. Remember, you will have to enter that password in all your wireless devices such as laptops, tablets, etc. While it is a pain to do, it’s better than finding your personal information plastered across some social media site.
There are also some things you can do when in a public Wi-Fi area, like a Starbucks, to keep your data safe. When connecting to wireless in a public Wi-Fi, your machine will ask you if this is a public or private network? Select “Public,” as Windows will prevent your computer from being seen by other computers, as well as turn off file sharing services than if you selected “Home” or “Work.”
By following these steps, you secure your network from would be Internet thieves.
Hunter Bonner is an information technologist and can be reached at www.techedgeblog.wordpress.com and on Twitter @HunterBonner.