Wireless at Home: Securing You Personal Network

Wireless at Home: Securing Your Personal Network

So, you have finally gone wireless and embraced computer mobility at home. Unfortunately, you have also exposed yourself to a myriad of network piggy backers, hackers, and personal-identity predators. Because home wireless users are responsible for their own network security, you should take extra care in protecting your wireless network against everything from neighbors pirating your Internet connection to full-scale identity theft.

Router-side Security

Routers operate much like the archaic telephone operators of a technologically simpler time: they decide where data will be sent and find the most direct path from one network to another. They also manage the flow of online traffic and function as a bridge that allows information passage to and from your computer. It is important to ensure your personal information is inaccessible to others and your computer is protected. Here are some suggestions to help safeguard your home computer and wireless network.

  • Check the reference manual that came with your wireless router to see what security features are available and how to activate them.
  • Secure your network with a complex password by choosing a variety of numbers, letters, symbols, and non-dictionary words. Longer passwords will also increase your security level.
  • Do not allow your router to broadcast your network's Service Set Identifier (SSID). Your SSID is the network code that specifies your own personal wireless connection. The router's default setting may allow any computer within range of your network to view your SSID, which gives other people the ability to log on to your network without your knowledge. Preventing open access to your wireless network will discourage rogue surfers by forcing users to enter the codename.
  • Implement a Media Access Control (MAC) address filter. Every wireless-capable computer has a unique MAC address that allows yo u access to your network. Most routers come with a MAC address filter that restricts access to just the addresses of your choice, enforcing a very secure method of filtration.
  • Encrypt the data transferred across your network. Not all routers are encryption savvy, so check for this feature and make sure to activate it.
  • If possible, limit the network transmission distance of your wireless router to your apartment or home.
  • Visit the manufacturer's online support page for security information. Most router manufacturers offer tips on security configurations for their products, plus information about activating advanced security features. Some manufacturers also offer email support via their Web sites. The online support pages may also identify any security patches that need to be applied to your wireless router.
Protecting your computer

  • Use a software firewall. Firewalls included in your operating system (i.e., Windows XP or OS X), sufficiently protect your computer. If your computer does not have a software firewall, try installing ZoneAlarm by Zone Labs or Norton Personal Firewall by Symantec.
  • Be sure to turn off your wireless connection when not in use. Many laptops remain connected to the closest, open wireless network by default.
  • Keep your computer's operating system and applications secure by applying vendor security patches and regularly updating your anti-virus programs.
    • Only you should decide who is allowed access to your computer. Take the time to guard your information and keep your home network secure. The extra barriers you create and precautions you take to build a protected environment for your personal home network and computer will help keep your network connection clear, your personal identity hidden, and your information safe.