Why secure your wireless network?
These days the devices supporting Wireless LAN (WLAN)/Wi-fi don’t cost a bomb & are pretty much common. The most common devices which support WLAN/Wi-fi are laptops & mobile phones. Due to widespread availability & use of such devices you can expect many to intrude into your wireless network.
These intruders may use your internet for harmless browsing but you can also expect them to download big files using your internet connection & the result is heavy internet bills. These are actually harmless intrusions.
What if the intruder is planning something more dangerous? Recently an American citizen’s family in Bombay were caught & detained by police for sending some email regarding bomb blasts. However as per family claims they never sent the email. According to media reports, the email was actually sent by a wireless network hacker & used the American family’s internet connection for sending that email. So the moral of the story is better safe than sorry- You must secure your wireless network as a precautionary measure. However, you should know that even a secured connection can be hacked but it isn’t that easy to hack into a secure connection. It might take many hours or days to hack a properly secured network.
How to secure your network:
- Change wireless router’s administrator password- The first step in securing your network is by changing the default administrator password of your wireless router to something which is complex. Change the password to some lengthy non-dictionary alpha-numeric combination. You do not need to use this password very often so you may write the password and store it in some safe place in your home.
- Do not broadcast SSID of your network-Almost all the routers are set to broadcast SSID (Service Set Identifier) by default. The SSID makes your connection visible to the devices & make it easier to connect to the network. But it also makes life easy for hackers. By turning it off the network cannot be detected by other devices. Your network can still be detected by some softwares known as sniffers.
Also remember to change your default SSID to something else as the default SSID usually sends the signal that the person has taken no steps to setup & protect the network.
- Enable Encryption- Enable WPA-PSK or WPA2 AES encryption in your router settings. WEP encryption is pretty much insecure & can be hacked into easily in seconds or minutes.
In order to use WPA-PSK or WPA2 AES encryption your devices should also be able to support it. If you are using Windows XP you must install Service Pack 2 or some patches. If your devices do not support WPA-PSK or WPA2 AES encryption then you have no other option than to use WEP. Remember something is better than nothing.
You need to create a shared key of 8-63 digits to use WPA-PSK or WPA2 AES encryption in your router settings. Make this shared key a combination of alphabets and digits and remember it should not be a dictionary word.
- MAC address filtering-MAC addresses are physical addresses of network adaptors & are unique to each adaptor. You can setup your network to allow only those computers whose MAC addresses have been added in the MAC filtering list.
- Disable remote administration-If you do not need to manage your network from the internet remotely, you should disable this feature in your router settings.
- Reduce transmission power- If your router supports this feature, consider reducing the transmission power of the wireless transmitter so that the signal is available only inside your premises.
- Assigning static IPs- If possible, set a fixed static IP range to your devices in the network. It’s easier to use DHCP addressing but is also more prone to attacks as the attacking computer obtains IP address from the router easily if DHCP is enabled.
- Check attached devices- Keep checking the attached devices to your wireless router on regular intervals if your router supports this feature.
- Switch off when not in use-Switching off the wireless router when you do not intend to use the internet is a very good approach as it keeps network intruders at bay by not providing them unattended long durations of time.
Please note that this article should be considered only as an introduction to the wireless network security and not as a complete guide to secure your network. We do not guarantee a fool proof network security but following the above mentioned steps will make the job of hacking into your network a difficult one.