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How can I secure my WiFi network?

Any computer that connects to the Internet needs to be secured. Viruses, trojans, hackers, malicious users - all looking for an unsecured place to wreak havok. Wireless networks are also at the mercy of unscrupulous neighbours and passers-by, as the radio waves emmited by the WiFi Access Point will extend outside the bounds of your home. Here is a plan to secure your wireless network in 9 steps.

1. Change the default administrator's password on the router

It's a good rule of thumb to change any defaults on a device. The very first thing you should change is the default username and password. If you ever forget your username or password, and need to configure the router, you can reset the router to the default factory setting - usually by sticking a paperclip into the reset hole at the back of the router for 10 seconds.

2. Change the SSID (network name) on your router/access point

Your WiFi router ships with a default SSID, and, as a rule of thumb, it's a good idea to change defaults to something more personal, and less predictable for the enterprising snooper. With the Netgear WGR614 the default SSID is NETGEAR - change it to anything you wish.

3. Disable SSID broadcasting

SSID broadcasting allows your access point to "broadcast" the SSID, so any device within range can see your SSID on their list of available networks. This makes setting up computers devices in your home easier, as you can just select the SSID that the device sees. The downside, however, is so can anyone who is within range of your network. If you disable the SSID, you'll have to type the SSID into the configuration page of anything you wish to install on the wireless network, instead of it being automatically detected, but this extra small amount of effort is worth the security it provides.

4. Disable remote configuration

Routers often have an option for remote configuration - mostly for use by network admins to access the router from any location. A home user doesn't need to do this, so disabling this makes good sense.

5. Enable router/access point security functions

WEP security has been trumped by its successor, WPA, but it's worth enabling to deter the casual snooper. Use the highest level pf WEP security available for your router.
For WPA, a passkey is used, and it's longer than the average password. Enable and use WPA security if your router supports it.

6. Place router in the centre of your home

By placing your router as centrally in your home as possible, you will cut down on how much the signal radiates outside the walls, as well as giving even coverage for a good signal anywhere you want to connect in your home.

7. Use anti-virus software

An obvious point, but still worth mentioning. A good, free anti-virus suite is available at http://free.grisoft.com/. Always remember to enable the live virus scanning (the virus scanner constantly checks your computer), and also update the software every week, as new viruses come on stream daily.

8. Install a software firewall

A firewall is a piece of hardware or software that stops unauthorised users gaining access to your network. Most routers have firewall capabilities, but to protect yourself further you can enable the firewall in Windows XP, if you have it, or install a free firewall, such as Zone Alarm, available at http://www.zonelabs.com/store/content/company/products/znalm/freeDownload.jsp

9. Restrict access list by MAC address

Every device that can connect to a network has a MAC (Media Access Control) address - a unique combination of letters and numbers - assigned to it by the manufacturer. For example, the network card in my computer has the MAC address (sometimes called the Physical Address) 00-00-E8-22-07-9E. A good way of keeping your wireless network very secure is to find the MAC address of anything you want to connect to the network - including wireless cards in desktops and laptops, USB wireless adapters in desktops and laptops, IP cameras etc. - and tell the router that only these devices may use the WiFi network. Most devices have the MAC address printed on them, and you can find out the MAC address of your computer's network card by opening a DOS prompt:

START > RUN > type "cmd" into the box (without quotes) and hit return.

From here, type "ipconfig /all". The Physical Address is displayed here.
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Article ID: 63
Author: Caroline Swords
Created On: 04 Nov 2005
Views: 9964

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