Thursday, September 6, 2012

Secure a Home Wireless Network with these Helpful Tips

The amount of technology in the modern home is astounding. The average household used to be lucky to have a telephone and a television. Now most homes have at least one television, mobile phones, computers, and high-speed internet access. The world of technology is trending toward wireless technology. In the interest of eliminating tangles of cords connecting devices to the web, most households opt to set up a wireless router to enable multiple devices in their home to connect without cords.

Setting up a wireless network may remove the clutter of cords and the inconvenience of being tied to one are of the home, but it does have disadvantages. A wireless home network is vulnerable to hacking attempts by thieves interested in stealing critical data from the devices on your network. The following tips will help you establish a secure home network that allows you to manage your finances, shop, and surf the web safely.

Secure Access to your Router

The wireless router that serves as the heart of your wireless home network is also a vulnerable point of entry for thieves to hack into your devices and files. The first step any user should take in securing their network is to secure their router with a custom username and password.

After your computer is connected to the internet, simply go to 192.168.1.1 in your internet browser. This will take you to the administration webpage for your wireless network. The first time you access this page it may not ask for a username and password, or it will be set to a factory default. Once you have accessed the administration webpage look for a tab entitled “Administration” or “Management.” Under this tab you’ll be able to set a custom username and password to control access to your router and network.

Some helpful tips to keep in mind at this junction include creativity. Be as creative as possible with a password for your network; don’t make it simple names or birthdays. Try to be unique. If you are having trouble reaching the administration webpage, as not all routers use 192.168.1.1, check the manual that came with your router or call tech support.

Encrypt your Connection

Hackers feast on un-encrypted networks and in 2012 there is no excuse for not encrypting your home network. Encryption technology has been in the mainstream for a few years and any self respecting router made in the last 5 years has some form of it. As packets of data are sent from each point they are scrambled into undecipherable jumbled data for their journey and unscrambled at the other end. There are limitations to encryption when dealing with older computers or routers. All points on your network must run the same encryption technology, so choose the highest order encryption available throughout your network. WPA2 is the highest encryption technology available to the mainstream; it is based on 128-bit key of scrambled data per packet. This is far superior to the older encryption protocols that were based on 64-bit encryption or even less. Of course encryption is only as good as the password you choose, so make sure you use at least 20 characters in your SSID password.

Setting up encryption is easy. While installing the software for your router you are likely going to be asked what level of encryption you would like. If you already installed the software and skipped that step, you can still add encryption protection. Simply logon to your router’s administration page and go to the “Security” tab. Here you will be able to select the level of encryption and develop your own encryption key.

Be Vigilant and Active

Once you’ve completed the steps above, continue to keep an eye on your router, settings, and security passwords. A few extra tips in this category include checking the router manufacturer’s website for firmware updates. While not necessary, a firmware update for your router could provide fixes for common bugs that weaken your security and also provide new security features that enhance your protection.

If you’re comfortable doing so, you can also tinker with the power settings of your modem and router. The more power provided to them, the greater the strength and reach of your wireless signal. Full power can result in your signal being transmitted beyond your home, making it easier for thieves to access your network and files from the street. Lowering the power settings will shrink the reach of your signal to further secure your network.

These steps are more than sufficient to ensure that your network is secure to deter thieves from attempting to hack into your devices. If you feel as though these are not enough, there is one more tool at your disposal. The Service Set Identifier, SSID, is the name of your network and is broadcast to the surrounding area.

It is possible to hide your SSID from public broadcast under the “Wireless” tab on your router administration webpage. It is worth noting that this step is not considered a true security feature; it merely prevents your network from being easily identified. This step does not provide any added level of security.

These few steps can be completed in just 20 minutes and will ensure that your wireless home network is adequately protected from thieves looking to steal sensitive data.

Author Bio:
 David is a freelance technology writer whose articles appear on various technology blogs.

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