WIFI Network Setup Tips

WIFI Network

Almost everyone has jumped on an unsecured WIFI access point at some point. There’s little harm in that if you’re just an honest person looking for an Internet connection. But if you’re the owner of an unsecured wireless network, you should be aware that the world’s not made up of completely honest people. For those not-so honest ones, it is very easy for them to see exactly what you’re doing on your network.

What does WEP & WPA stand for? Which one should I use?

The first line of defense for your network is encryption, which encodes the data transmitted between your PC and your wireless router. Unfortunately, some routers still ship with encryption disabled, and many users don’t turn it on, leaving themselves completely unprotected.

If you haven’t already, enable your router’s encryption, and use the most robust form supported by your network. The Wireless Protected Access (WPA) protocol and more recent WPA2 are more secure and reliable. (WEP) stands for Wireless Encryption Protocol, it was the first protocol to support wireless encryption.

WEP WPA WPA2

Use WPA or WPA2 if at all possible! WEP is extremely easy to crack. Please note: you must use the same form of encryption for all the devices on your network. It is not possible to run both WEP and WPA at the same time. The secret keys used by WPA and WPA2 change dynamically, which make them nearly impossible to hack. Use a strong password for your encryption key, such as a mixture of letters and numbers of 14 characters or more.

If you have an older router that supports WEP only, you’ll be safest if you use 128-bit WEP keys. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s website for a firmware update that will add WPA support. If it doesn’t look like an update is likely, consider replacing old adapters and routers with newer models that support WPA. Look for a router that supports the hybrid WPA + WPA2 mode, which lets you use the stronger WPA2 encryption with adapters that support it, while still maintaining compatibility with WPA adapters.

Make sure you change the default network name and password on your router. Doing so will make it much more difficult for hackers to break into your router and alter its settings.

If my router has a built-in firewall do I need it?

The firewall built into your router prevents hackers from gaining access to your computer and other attached devices. It does nothing to stop people in range of your WIFI signal from getting onto your network. With the latest high-performance equipment, your WIFI signal could reach clear down the block. Without encryption and other protective measures, your neighbors can use readily available tools to see all your WIFI traffic.

How can I secure my notebook at public WIFI hotspots?

Basic public hotspots rarely if ever use encryption. You should always assume that everyone can see your Internet traffic and possibly your files unless you take precautions. Hackers have been known to set up pirate routers with familiar SSID names like Wayport or AT&T, then use them to capture unsuspecting users’ log-on information and other private data.

Before connecting to a public hotspot. Verify that your PC’s software firewall is turned on and that Windows’ file-sharing feature is off. To check this setting, open Control Panel and choose Windows Firewall (you may have to click Security Center first in XP or Security in Vista). In XP, select the Exceptions tab, and look in the Programs and Services to make sure “File and Printer Sharing” is unchecked. In Vista, click Change settings, then select the Exceptions tab and follow the instructions for XP.

Always turn your Wi-Fi radio off when you’re not at a hotspot: Hackers can use it to create peer-to-peer Wi-Fi connections with your computer and access it directly.

For better security, consider signing up for a paid subscription to a hotspot network such as Boingo or T-Mobile. Both companies provide connection software that encrypts your sessions automatically.

What is a VPN and how do I get one?

The best way to protect yourself while connected to a public hotspot is by using a virtual private network. VPNs keep your communications safe by creating secure “tunnels” through which your encrypted data travels. Many companies provide VPN service to their mobile and offsite workers. Check with your IT department for connection instructions. Some higher-end home routers allow VPN connections. Check your manufactures website for setup and connection instructions.

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Category: Computer How-To

About the Author ()

JC is an MCSA, MCTS, MCP, Net+ and A+ Certified Technician. He is also an avid Web Developer, WordPress Jedi, SEO Connoisseur and owner of an IT Firm in the Midwest. During the day he helps tackles Server Administration and Desktop Support issues for small business. With over 15 years experience installing, configuring and troubleshooting retail and enterprise software, he's seen it all. Please use the comments section or contact page to reach out.

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