Wireless networks or WLANs are part of the internet world in the recent years. The increasing acceptance of DSL connections and use of mobile computing devices like laptops, smartphones and tablets requires wireless connectivity. Most of these devices use the Wireless LAN (WLAN) technology or Wi-Fi for connectivity.
Wireless LAN being wireless, if not protected adequately, anyone could connect to your network and access the internet and your computers. This could be your neighbour who would like to steal your internet bandwidth or a terrorist who would want to hide behind you to do the terrorist activities. Recent and past incidents shows the increased use of hacked Wi-Fi connections for performing terrorist activities; example cases include the recent Varanasi attack and earlier Bangalore bomb attacks. I am sure that you would not want to share your Internet for both the cases. If you are not worried about the neighbours or terrorists using your Wi-Fi connection or a hacker connects to your network and see what you are doing in your comp uter or internet then you can stop reading this article / how to guide.
Considering these, it is vital and absolute necessary to protect your Wireless LAN (WLAN) or Wi-Fi; be it at office or home. The below step by step how to guide will provide you some advice on how to protect your Wi-Fi connection
The key aspects of the Wireless LAN or Wi-Fi Security are Admin Password, Encryption, Network Filtering, Changing the default settings, hide from others seeing it and updating the firmware of the wireless router.
Let us go through it in detail.
- Enable Encryption on your wireless router
Encryption if the first and foremost thing you should consider doing for protecting the wireless or Wi-Fi network. If you just turn on your wireless and start searching for networks, you will find many unprotected Wi-Fi networks. If there is no encryption, it is very easy and simple to connect to your Wi-Fi network and access internet. There are three main types of Wireless Encryption for protecting the wireless networks. WiFi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) being the highest security from the list followed by WiFi Protected Access (WPA) and then by Wired Equivalency Privacy (WEP). To ensure the best possible security you should implement WPA2.
To implement this, you will have to define the pass key / encryption key and enter the same into router for configuration as well as into the computers wireless network configuration. Ensure that the encryption key is strong and it is periodically changed
All wireless routers are shipped with default passwords. A simple search in the internet will give you the default password of your DSL / Wireless router. As the first step towards the security, you should change the password immediately. Make this a complex password and save it in one of the best password managers so that you will not forget it later. Use letters, numbers and special characters so that it will be difficult for a hacker to get the password. It would be a good practice to change the password periodically, the only issue is that you will be required to change the passwords in the connected devices.
- Control access to your Wireless network using MAC filtering
MAC filtering is for ensuring that only predefined computers will have access to your wireless network. Every network card has a unique address namely Media Access Control (MAC) address. This is more or less like a physical address and is hardwired to the card which cannot be changed. Identify all the MAC addresses of your devices you are planning to connect using Wireless LAN. Use the MAC filtering option of your wireless router to enter each MAC address.
You can get the MAC address of your computer by running the “IPCONFIG / all“ command from the command prompt. The value corresponding to the label “Physical Address” is what you should look for to get the MAC address.
- Change the default IP Address
Most of the wireless networks comes with an IP address range of 192.168.0.1. Just like you and me the hackers also knows about it. Changing the IP address range will make it difficult for the hackers to guess he same. If you do not want to change the IP Addresses range, make sure that you change the router IP address from 192.168.0.1 to something else in that range.
- Disable remote administration
Disable the administration of the router over the Wireless LAN. Use the USB connection if your router support this, else use the Wired connection for managing the router.
- Disable SSID broadcasting
SSID is the routers name. This information is vital for establishing connectivity to your network. Most of the routers, if not all, will allow you to disable broadcasting of the SSID. Since you know this SSID, you just need to enter the same manually in the configuration of your connecting device. By disabling the broadcast, others will not know if the Wireless Network exists.
- Update the firmware
Hackers identifies the weaknesses in every software and the wireless router software’s are no exception. As and when the vulnerabilities are known, Wireless router companies will upgrade the software, firmware, to new versions. To ensure the protection of the Wireless Routers, it is important to upgrade the routers firmware. This will help the hackers away from exploiting some weakness in the router software to get the access.
- If you suspect, return it to factory setting
Finally, if you suspect that someone has access your wireless network and changed the configurations, It is better to reconfigure your router from scratch. This will also be helpful if you forgot your admin password. Most of the routers will have some kind of button to do this.
Let us know what are your experience your Wi-Fi network security.