Many homes and businesses today have a wireless network to allow multiple users to easily connect to the internet. This provides a convenience to welcome users, but also provides an opportunity for hackers to get into your home computers, or the frugal next door to surf for free .
Accessing your wireless router is as easy as accessing any website; each manufacturer provides an IP address or simple URL to access the router set-up. Check your manufacturer’s website or user manual if you haven’t bookmarked it already. Here are some simple items to check on your wireless network:
1.Make sure to change the Default Administrator Password -To access and manage the settings of the router, a username and password are required. Until recently, many router manufacturers provided common administrator user ids and simple passwords. These are easy targets for hackers so make sure that you change the log in and password to be stronger and uniquely yours. Use a complex password, like 12 alphanumeric and special characters, and change it routinely.
2.Turn on Encryption services – Wireless networks all come with some type of encryption service. Make sure you turn on your router’s most advanced setting (like WPA2) so that when you send messages, they get encrypted and difficult for users outside the network to understand them.
3.Change the default SSID – When you set up your wireless router, it will often come with a standard SSID, or network name. Often times, the name reflects the company of the router you purchased. This is the default SSID and hackers might think you are an easier target because you network is configured so simply. Change it to something clever, not your family’s name.
4.Disable SSID Broadcast – Places that provide Wi-Fi access to users in the area, such as a library or coffee shop, broadcast at intervals for people who roam in and out of range. This is unnecessary in your home, so as the network administrator, disable the SSID broadcast feature.
5.Do not auto-connect – To avoid unnecessary security risks, do not allow any of your computers to automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks. If you are at a place with trusted Wi-Fi, like your home network, then enable that particular network.
6.Enable firewalls – Most wireless networks you purchase today offer built-in firewall protection. It may not be automatically turned on, so make sure you enable it in the administrator settings. This is one extra layer of protection for personal computers which should have their own firewall protection active as well.
For the serious home network security geek, consider limiting your router to only known MAC addresses. A MAC (media access control) address is a unique number assigned to any device that is capable of accessing a network. Your router will identify these MAC addresses for any connected devices. Change the settings in your router set-up to only accept your devices. Nobody else can get in, even with the password.
Since home wireless networks have become such common place, it is forcing non-technical computer users to understand some basic safety hazards on wireless home networks and learn how to make them more secure. The tips above may be intuitive to computer experts, but new to your average user. By being familiar with these aspects of a wireless router for your home, you can make sure your identity and important information is more secure when it is sent and received.
Written By: Amy Murphy, TLC Computer Solutions, Las Vegas, NV
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