Guest Post: Basic Security for Your Home Wireless Network

Netgear DG834G ADSL2 wireless router

Netgear DG834G ADSL2 wireless router

So, you’re ready to set up that nice and convenient home wireless network.  You’ve got the router out of the box and you’re ready to plug everything in, but there’s just one problem.  You’re concerned, or maybe you’re even a little bit paranoid.  You’re wondering who out there might be able to pick up the signal.  Setting up a wireless network in your home can be very simple, but it can also pose a few risks if you get lazy or you’re using older wireless router technology.  Once you’ve set up the router, yes, other people with wireless devices may be able to detect the signal you’re broadcasting, but depending on the precautions you’ve taken, you can determine what happens when they see that signal.

 Whether you live in an apartment complex, a tightly-packed subdivision, or on some rural street, there will always be opportunity for someone to detect your wireless signal.  All they have to do is look for it.  Does it mean they’ll try to connect to it?  No.  There isn’t any reason to panic about who might be able to see it.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters are your security and the preventative measures you’ve put in place to block unwanted access when that stray individual does decide to try to connect to your network and attempts to access your internet or your computer.

 Securing your internet connection and your personal network is a relatively simple thing to do.  Many newer routers or modem/ router combos will take you through a setup wizard that should walk you through activating security protocols, such as WEP or WPA and changing the SSID (network name).  Setup wizards aren’t necessarily the best option when setting up your wireless network’s security, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, it can work.  Just remember to change the SSID and avoid using WEP security.

 Why?  Not changing you router’s default SSID can be a sign to outsiders that the user who set up the network has no idea what they’re doing.  It can make that wireless signal a potential target.  You can change it to whatever you want.  As for WEP, it’s useless and simple to break through.  A tech savvy 8-year-old could break through WEP security in minutes.  If you’re in the market for a wireless router (or already purchased one) and one of the device’s selling points is WEP security, stay far away.  Instead, look for devices offering WPA security, or better yet, WPA2 security.

Then set an encryption key password that isn’t your dog’s name, your street address, the town where you grew up, or something equally lame and easy to crack.  Make it tough.  Make it long.   Don’t make it what you think is tough, make it genuinely tough.  Try a password creation exercise.  Write out strings of numbers and letters or a piece of paper.  Or write out a series of words that have no apparent or logical connection to one another.  Or make up words that aren’t in any dictionary.  Be creative and don’t worry if you can’t remember it or not.

Since we’re talking about a home network, it isn’t a big deal if you write down your insane password and store it somewhere, preferably in a place you will remember.  That way, when you have additional devices you want to grant internet access to, whip it out, you’re ready to go, and no paranoia.

Editor’s note:

Most recently-issued ISP-supplied or retail wireless routers are implementing a “secure by default” strategy which makes the process of creating a secure wireless network simple for most of us.

This includes strategies like WPS easy-setup routines with a random passphrase, and an increasing number of routers provided by the ISPs or telcos as customer-premises equipment use SSIDs that typically have a service marketing name followed by three or four random digits such as “BIGPOND1223 or OPTUS4345. These strategies relate the experience of a secure home network to that of installing or using a typical door lock, something most of us identify with regularly.

Guest post by Jack Pike Television lover and guru of all things Cable, spends his time blogging with Time Warner Cable when not enjoying the tube.

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