How to secure your home wireless network

Submitted by Dallas Smith of Dallas Smith -- Certified Computer/Network Tech

Not long ago, it was common to find a client that had a totally unsecured network. This is starting to become less frequent as word gets out and many manufacturers have default security.

However, there are plenty of people with networks that have low-level security due to outdated hardware or improper setup. The most common types of wireless security are briefly outlined below.

WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy): This was the original encryption standard and comes in 64 and 128 bit flavors. This standard creates a hexadecimal key that will need to be entered to allow a machine to access the network. WEP is considered outdated and tedious due to its long keys.

WPA version 1 (Wi-Fi Protected Access): A significant upgrade to WEP improved encryption and allowed the use of phrases or normal passwords in lieu of an alphanumeric key as with WEP.

WPA version 2: This is currently the most secure standard for residential use. Many improvements were made over WPA version 1 in regards to how the password and transmitted data are encrypted.

Using WPA version 2 is ideal, unless there is a reason that you cannot use it. Any Windows operating system newer than XP with Service Pack 2 can use WPA version 2. For solid state devices such as televisions and Wi-Fi-enabled DVD/Blu-ray players, it is best to consult the manual to check the security compatibility.

Password security

It is important that you make your password as secure as possible. Traits of a secure password are at least 8 characters, using capital letters, using numbers, using special symbols and not using something personally identifiable to you.

Lastly, make sure the administrator account that allows access to your router does not have the default username and password. This situation occurs about 75 percent of the time.

The default admin account credentials for most routers are universally known or easy to find out, so anyone with local access or the ability to access your network somehow will be able to augment your router. As part of your setup or any remedial work, this should be changed.

Be the gatekeeper

Many newer wireless routers have the option to set up a secondary “guest” network. This gives you options as to who can access what and draws a clear line in the sand. Ideally, most setups involve the main network having full access and the guest network having only internet access.

The kids coming over for the slumber party that only need the internet to watch YouTube and play Xbox don’t need to see the other computers on your network. Provide them the guest network and password and keep them away from the rest of your equipment—out of site usually means out of mind.

Dallas Smith is a certified and highly experienced computer/network technician servicing the Washington D.C. metropolitan region. He holds a college degree in network systems and also three industry standard certifications in computer repair, networking and Windows Operating Systems. Furthermore, he has nearly 12 years of residential and corporate experience. He consults in the evenings and weekends in addition to his full time job as a Systems administrator for a financial firm.

As of July 29, 2011, this service provider was highly rated on Angie’s List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check AngiesList.com for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie’s List.


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