How to Protect Your Home Wireless Network

by eHow Contributor

If you have a wireless network at your home, take some simple steps to secure it. Otherwise you may be offering up free access to the Internet -- and your personal information.

1

Learn the risks of an unsecured home network. You might not mind if your neighbors share your Internet connection. However, leaving your network unsecured can lead to serious problems. Drive-by hackers, or "war drivers," drive around with laptops looking for wireless networks to break into. Unauthorized users may perform illegal or unwanted activities using the Internet connection in your name. They may take over your network and lock you out. They may even be able to view personal files on your computer if you are not secure. Additionally, they may slow down the speed of your network by using up bandwidth.

2

Change the default password that your router shipped with. If a user is able to connect to your network, he can probably find your wireless router and log in. You probably did this when you set up your router; you use a Web browser to configure your router's connections and settings. Even if you have encryption on your network, a hacker can easily get into your router if he can guess the password. Once he is in, he can easily disable the encryption and even lock you out of your network. Refer to your router's instructions on how to access it and change the default password. Make up an unguessable string of letters and numbers and write it in your paper address book so you don't forget it.

3

Hide your network and change its default name. By default, your router it also broadcasts the name, or SSID, or your network to all nearby receivers. People may see the SSID and try to connect. Most routers allow the ability to hide, or not broadcast, the SSID. You can still connect to it, but you have to know the exact, case-sensitive spelling of the name. People cannot see the network, and cannot connect because they don't know the name. Refer to your router's instructions to change the SSID name and turn off SSID broadcasting.

4

Use encryption. Almost all wireless routers do not have encryption enabled "out of the box." They do this so it is easier to set up for the first time. Using encryption is like asking all connecting devices for a password before allowing them to join a network. As long as computers have this password, they can connect. In addition, the data transmitted back and forth is scrambled so that the communication cannot be intercepted. You might hear encryption referred to as WEP, 64-bit or 128-bit, or WPA. WPA is the newer and better type of encryption, but you should use whatever is available on your router and devices.Refer to the user manual for instructions on how to set up and choose a safe encryption key for your specific router.

5

Lock down your devices. For the most secure network, you can tell the router only to allow certain preapproved devices to connect. Every network device has a unique, factory-issued number called a MAC address.You can turn on a router feature that only allows certain MAC addresses to connect, preventing any unauthorized devices from connecting. Using this in conjunction with the other methods described in this article will ensure no unauthorized users access your network.

Tip

  • check Change your encryption key ideally once a month or more often to prevent users from "cracking" your network.

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