Wireless networks are not as secure as the traditional "wired" networks, but you can minimize the risk on your wireless network (at home or at work) by following the tips below.
How Does it Work?
The standard setup for a wireless network requires two components: a Wireless Access Point (WAP) and a computer with a wireless network adapter. Properly configuring a wireless device can be challenging and the steps will vary depending on the manufacturer.
The WAP connects to your high-speed Internet connection and/or your internal network. It provides the ability to use a computing device (copier, printer, etc) without being constrained by the distance of a wire. A wireless network adapter, used for transmitting and receiving information, may be required for each device you intend to connect to a WAP. The wireless network adapter is usually built into laptop computers, while it is an add-on component for other devices.
Tips for Securing Your Wireless Network
It is critical that every wireless network has encryption enabled. Encryption scrambles the data in a way that if your signal is intercepted there is reduced risk of someone being able to eavesdrop or monitor your communications. There are several standards of encryption common to most WAPs. Newer wireless access points include Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2). WPA2 is stronger and the preferred method of encryption. If WPA2 is not available, it is recommended that you use WPA. If your network only allows for WEP (Wired Equivalency Privacy), an older standard of encryption, it is recommended that you replace your wireless network with one that supports WPA2 or WPA.
Change the Default Password
Change the default password that comes with your WAP. The default passwords used by manufacturers are well known to the hacking community. Be sure to use a strong password, that is at least eight characters in length and include a mix of upper and lower case letters, as well as special characters.
Change SSID Name
The Service Set Identifier (SSID) is the name of your wireless network. Default SSIDs are well knownâ€”often the name of the manufacturerâ€”or easy to guess. Change the SSID name to something unique and be careful not to use a name that freely discloses information. For example, avoid using your family name. Avoid descriptive or functional names as well, such as "Payroll" or "Accounting" since this would advertise an attractive target for an attacker.