Wireless Networks

There is an ever growing list of unsecured wireless networks in our neighborhood. What this means is, if you have not changed the default settings on your wireless router, your network is open to anyone with the proper tools to use your bandwidth and look at your information on your computer, etc. One evening for example, I noticed that out of the 10-12 wireless networks visible, 6-8 were unsecured.

One of the ways to determine if your wireless network is secured is to view your wireless connection. If it says “unsecured” you are at risk not only from your neighbors but from any one driving down the street with a laptop looking for a network just like yours to break into.

Another way to tell if your network is secure, is to make the following assumption: if you did not make all of the following changes to your router when you set up your wireless network, chances are very good that you, your children and your information are at risk from prying eyes.

1. Don’t stay logged on as an administrator. When you are using programs that require Internet access, such as a web browser or an e‑ mail program, we recommend that you log on as a standard user rather than an administrator. That’s because many viruses and worms can’t be stored and run on your computer unless you’re logged on as an administrator.

2. Do not enable WEP security. WEP is outdated and not as secure.  You will have other choices such as WPA, which is more secure.

3. Use a network security key…this encrypts your information. If you have a wireless network, you should set up a network security key, which turns on encryption. With encryption, people can’t connect to your network without the security key. Also, any information that is sent across your network is encrypted so that only computers that have the key to decrypt the information can read it.

4. Change the default administrator name and password on your router or access point. If you have a router or access point, you probably used a default name and password to set up the equipment. Most manufacturers use the same default name and password for all of their equipment, which someone could use to access your router or access point without you knowing it. To avoid that risk, change the default administrator user name and password for your router. Check the information that came with your device for instructions about how to change the name and password.

5. Change the default SSID…Routers and access points use a wireless network name known as a service set identifier (SSID). Most manufacturers use the same SSID for all of their routers and access points. We recommend that you change the default SSID to keep your wireless network from overlapping with other wireless networks that might be using the default SSID.

6. Remember to ALWAYS use a firewall and anti-virus software. Keep your operating system up to date by performing the recommended critical patches and update your anti-virus.

You can contact the manufacturer of your wireless router for support on changing the default settings that are putting you and your information at risk.

© 2008 Judy L. Hall

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