How to Check the Security of a Wireless Network

by M. Wade

A wireless network, also called a wireless local area network, or WLAN, allows users to access a computer network using radio signals instead of Ethernet cables. Wireless networks use a wireless access point ("WAP") that receives and transmits data to wireless-enabled devices such as laptops and smartphones. Because many wireless networks use some form of security to prevent unauthorized users from logging onto the network and to protect data transmissions from hackers, you must check the security settings of a wireless network before accessing it.

1

Search for available networks. Using a wireless-enabled device such as a smartphone or laptop, open the "Wi-Fi settings" or "wireless settings" menu. Depending on your device, you can search for available wireless networks within range of your device, which will produce a list of wireless networks, or you can type in a specific SSID (network name) for the wireless network you wish to access.

2

Select a network from the "Available" list. Select or highlight the wireless network. If the network is secured, it will be designated by a lock icon.

3

Log into the wireless router to check its settings. If you are checking the security of your home or business wireless network, you can log into the wireless router to check and change its security settings. To do this, type the router's URL into a browser, press "Enter," then input the username and password provided in the router's manual. This will load the router's settings homepage.

4

Access the security settings menu. When the router's homepage loads, click the security settings link. Here, you can check the wireless network's SSID (network name) and determine the type of security the wireless network uses, such as WPA, which requires an alphanumeric passcode, or WEP, which uses a less secure numeric passcode. If none of these encryption settings are selected, the wireless network is unsecure and can be accessed by any user. Make sure to save any changes you make to your router's security settings and update your wireless devices to reflect those changes.

Tip

  • check Use a WPA-PSK security setting and change your wireless network's password regularly to keep it secure.

Warnings

  • close It is unlawful in many jurisdictions to log on to someone else's home or business wireless network without authorization.
  • close Most wireless networks are secured and require users to enter a passcode to access the network. Public Wi-Fi networks, such as those found in libraries and coffee shops, typically are unsecure and should not be used to transmit sensitive data, such as online banking data, as all data can be easily intercepted and viewed by others using the network.

About the Author

M. Wade is a licensed attorney and writer. She is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and University of Louisville and has been published in the University of Louisville Law Review, The Brand, and Blackline. She has been a writer for Demand Studios since August 2008.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Photo courtesy Xmods/MorgueFile