A couple of months ago I purchased my first wireless enabled laptop.
As I switched it on and began setting it up I was shocked when I
realized that my laptop had found and connected to my neighbours
wireless modem and I was able to freely browse the internet and
download data using his modem and internet connection. If I were a
hacker it would not be difficult for me to hack in to his computer
using this connection to his network.
The Shocking Truth
shocking truth is that many wireless network users out there, and you
could be one of them, are not securing their wireless modems at all.
This is further confirmed by a television program I saw in which a
television presenter drove down a street until he found a signal from
an unsecured wireless router being used in a nearby house. He then
hacked into this mans computer and recorded his entire Internet
activity including websites visited, items purchase, holidays booked,
passwords and even credit card details. When the unsuspecting computer
user was confronted with the information gathered about him he was
understandably upset. He had been sold the modem with security software
by a high street store that had told him that this would provide
adequate security. They were wrong!
How to Secure Your Wireless Network
Although every wireless router is different and will have its own
instructions these can sometimes be hard to follow, the steps below
will help to guide you through the process.
Set Up Your Modem Password
Every router can be set-up by using your browser to access it by typing
in its IP address. This IP address can be found in your router
instructions and will be something like this:
you have input this address into your browser and pressed enter you
will be taken to a login page where you must input the user name
password. By default the router will have a generic password which you
will also find in your instructions. Login using the default details
and then navigate to the ‘change password’ page where you can change it
to your own secret password.
If you do not do this, a hacker
could gain access using the generic password. After any changes have
been made you must apply the changes and restart your router. Your
instructions will tell you how to do this.
2. Configure Your Router for Data Encryption
Login to your router as outlined above and browse to the security page
where you can set-up your security type and input a cipher key. Most of
the settings in these pages should be left as they are if you don’t
know what you are doing. You can usually choose between different types
of security, such as WEP, 802.1 or WPA. There are different opinions as
to, which is best, I personally use WEP. If there is an ‘enable WEP
wireless security’ check box or similar you must check it. You will
then need to make up a cipher key using hexadecimal digits, which
consist of random numbers from 1-9 and letters from A-F. I recommend a
minimum of 128 bit encryption which will need a 26 digit key. If you
wish to use 256 bit encryption your key will have to be 58 digits long.
Input this key into the form provided and make a note of it for setting
up your other computers. As stated above you will now need to apply any
changes made and restart your router.
3. Configure Your Wireless Enabled Computers
After setting up the above encryption on your wireless network you will
then need to input your new cipher key into each wireless computer that
you want to connect to the network. Your other wireless enabled
computers will search for any wireless network it can find and then ask
if you would like to connect. If you attempt to connect to a newly
set-up encrypted network it will ask you for the cipher key. Input the
cipher key you made up in the previous section and click ‘connect‘.
When doing this for the first time it may take a while for the new
configuration to take effect so be patient before trying to use it. The
next time you boot up your wireless computer it will connect
4. Install Internet Security Software
Whether you have a wireless network or not, it is essential nowadays to
protect you computer by using good quality internet securities
software. Purchasing this from a reputable security company is
recommended to ensure that your software is kept up to date with the
most recent virus signatures. If you are not up to date, an
unrecognised virus will not be stopped by the software. It is not
advisable to use a free anti-virus service as these do not provide
adequate protection and are a false economy. Security software will
also detect and block any attempt to hack into your computer via the
internet or local network. Recommended internet security software
companies are - Norton, McAfee and others.
In short then, following the above procedures will make it very
difficult for the would be hacker to use your wireless network to gain
access to your computer. I also strongly advise you to read your
wireless router manual thoroughly.