With the near ubiquitousness of 4G Internet networks at the home and around the community, we can still take for granted the modicum of knowledge and skill needed to properly setup a secure wireless network.
Even with the newer 4G networks available to people on their smartphones, the essentials of a secure home WiFi network are the same.
Simplicity aside, this is not a task that people should pass over lightly.
Technology is constantly changing and the vulnerabilities that are inherent in any system can over time be exploited by determined individuals. Routers need to be replaced to accommodate faster wireless technology.
Security protocols need to be updated to be more secure. Even the firmware that routers use needs to updated from time to time.
Setting up a secure wifi system does not have to be a chore, but it should be done properly.
Just as knowing basic automotive maintenance is every car owners’ responsibility, every one who sets up a wireless network at home should know and understand the basic components and how to set them up securely.
A wireless network consists of a modem which delivers the internet service, the wireless router that delivers the wireless internet signal to wireless devices, and the devices themselves. To be a secure network, security measures are put in place at the router level that are shared on the devices accessing that router.
The biggest threat to wireless security is not hacking but piggybacking.
An unsecured network allows anyone to join that network without the user’s knowledge.
Whether on a Mac or PC or smartphone, wireless networks by design are allowed to be easily joined and disconnected from, and there is no way of knowing of who might be using bandwidth for which they have not paid.
This is not to say that hacking should not be a concern for someone securing their home WiFi network. Over the internet one can easily purchase a laptop antenna that greatly extends the range of their wifi pickup over many miles, and an unsecured home WiFi network can open up anyone’s computer to invasion.
The danger here is in identity theft and exposure of passwords and financial information.
There are even antenna that can be built at home without the need for a kit purchased online.
In urban areas, people are actively looking for wifi hotspots, although usually not for nefarious reasons, but it pays to be safe and smart.
What about my router?
For someone purchasing a new router, the process for setting up a secure network can be intimidating and time-consuming.
We as consumers tend to mistakenly confuse the easy access of wireless internet with the actual effort needed to make that happen. Cable companies are great about walking their customers through the process, but anyone can easily do it.
Keeping a pen and paper nearby to write down the information is especially useful.
A new router will direct the user to a manufacturers’s webpage that allows them to enter their network address and account information. The default administrators password and username need to be changed. The default logins are made to be simple to allow initial user access, but a user should not leave them as they are.
Setting up your network.
An SSID, which stands for “service set identification”, is simply the name you want to give your network.
Again, the router will assign a default name, and this should be changed. For instance, routers made by Linksys will designate their SSID as “linksys” by default.
If there are twenty people in the neighborhood who do not change their Linksys SSID, then you cannot know which network belongs to you.
Also, if a malicious user finds a network with a default manufacturer SSID, it is a good indicator of security vulnerability.
A user in addition to giving the network a unique name will also create a password for that SSID, and the router webpage usually gives a good indicator as to the password’s strength and weakness.
What about encryption?
Encryption is the users primary security tool for a home wifi network.
Setting up a new router will give the user several options, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
Currently, the most secure encryption is WPA2, but it is important that all devices are able to use this level of encryption.
Most new devices made will allow this, but older devices may not. WEP is not a recommended security setting. It is outdated from 1999, and the FBI was able to crack a WEP encryption key in three minutes. WPA2 allows for a 256 bit encryption key.
It is not necessary to know the entire key (although it helps to write it down), but what is important is every device on the network sharing the same level of encryption.
Finally, one should ensure that the firewalls on each computer in the network and the router itself are turned on.
If an individual begins experiencing network problems it is easy to backtrack through firewall settings and find out where the culprit is. The firewall settings on Windows and Mac machines are easily accessible under network options, and similarly with wireless routers firewall designators are clearly marked.
Like knowing how to check your engine oil or knowing the proper psi for tires, making your home wifi network secure is essential to its lifelong health and usability.
Good WiFi security protects a user from the threat of hacking and illegal usage. No one wants to expose their personal and financial information to the risk of theft. No one wants unwanted persons using a service that they have paid good money to have in their homes.
Therefore, when setting up your new wifi home network, make sure it is secure.