It's a fact: Many wireless LANs (Local Area Networks) use default settings that don't require a password to gain access to a network. If your network isn't protected, an intruder can gain unauthorized access. And if someone located nearby uses your Internet connection on a regular basis, they are using your bandwidth, which can slow down your connection.
Worse, a hacker can gain access to your computers and files, or use them as staging ground from which to launch hacker attacks on other computers on the Internet, which can be traced back to your network and, therefore, your business. To protect your wireless network from freeloaders and hackers, you must configure your wireless router to require a password for access. There are three main steps to completing this task:
- Log in to the administrative interface of your wireless router (by referring to your user manual, contacting the manufacturer or seeking expert assistance).
- Follow the instructions for creating a password for your wireless router.
- Edit the wireless access configuration of your notebook and desktop computers (and other devices) that connect to your wireless LAN to use the password string you chose.
Ready to secure your wireless LAN?So you've already set up your wireless router and have at least one computer that connects to it and the Internet. Once you verify that your wireless network is operating correctly, you should secure unauthorized access to it. The first step is to set up a password that only you and other authorized users of your network know.
What security does your wireless router offer?WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) was previously the encryption standard for wireless routers. Requiring a password will keep most freeloaders and casual hackers off your network, so use WEP if that's all your equipment can support now. However, a more knowledgeable hacker can crack WEP, so for better security use the newer WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access version 2) standard.
Configure the computer(s) on your LAN to use WPA2After verifying that your router and computer(s) support WPA2, proceed with choosing a WPA2 password for your network. You will need to log in to the administrative interface of your router and find the screen for setting up encrypted passwords or security. Choose the WPA2 encryption option. Choose the WPA2 Personal option instead of WPA2 Enterprise unless you are running a Radius server. Once you set up your router to use WPA2, you'll need to configure each computer that will be using the wireless LAN to log in to the network using WPA2. You will need a current version of Windows XP software, including certain updates, in order to use WPA2.
Don't have WPA2 support in your router?If you are using a router or computer that doesn't support WPA2, you can use the older and less secure WEP. Use 128-bit WEP rather than other variations your router might offer with a lower number of bits. Basically, the longer the encryption string, the harder it is to crack.
Is my network secure now?Using an encrypted password to restrict access to your wireless network is the first step toward protecting your network. Additional steps include creating your own login and password to the wireless router's admin interface. Because manufacturers tend to use the same default login and password for all their wireless routers, it's smart to create your own login.
- Wi-Fi passwords are encrypted to make it more difficult for someone snooping on your network connection to learn the password. While there are different levels of encryption strength that various wireless routers might offer, 128-bit security or stronger is better than a lower (bit) level.
- You should be able to find an option to change the login and password after you login to your router, or refer to your user manual.
- It's also a good idea to change the default SSID or network name for the router from the manufacturer's name to one that you create. As an example, if you have a Linksys router, change the SSID "linksys" to "Acme Network" so hackers won't know what kind of router you are using.