Make your Business or Home wireless network private — or even invisible.


Business / Home Wi-Fi networks can easily be found by scanners on laptops, smartphones and stand-alone devices. Most people have learned to secure them with password-based encryption, but there are still a lot of holdouts.

“With the proliferation of wireless in homes and business, securing these connections is an important step in keeping very bad things from happening,” said Roy Miehe, Principal and chief technology officer of MspPortal.net

“While manufacturers have made it simpler [to turn on encryption], the unfortunate fact is neighborhoods remain filled with vulnerable wireless networks.”

Disable SSID broadcasting.

It’ll make the network “invisible” to anyone who’s not aware that there’s an active wireless transmitter in the area.

“In order to allow the human user to tell one wireless network from another, routers and access points automatically broadcast their names (also known as ESSID/SSID or Service Set ID),” Miehe said.

The SSID broadcast lets the network be easily found by its owner and any houseguests he may have, but it also tells everyone else that it’s there. Turning off SSID broadcasting won’t block authorized users — they’ll just have to type in the SSID manually. Your router’s manual will explain how to do this.

Never place the gateway near a window overlooking public places.

Radio waves transmit more efficiently through glass than they do through concrete. You don’t want strangers in the street, courtyard or park hijacking your signal.

That way, people driving down the street scanning for open networks can’t see yours at all.

Change the wireless gateway’s default administrative username and password.

If you’re getting a new wireless router, replace both the administrative username and password right after you first power it on. If you’ve had the router for a while, check the instruction manual to be sure you’re no longer using the defaults.

“Most wireless devices can actually work out of the box, thanks to the multitude of technologies and features implemented to facilitate deployment even for non-technical consumers”

But keeping routers on “factory” settings is the most common mistake users make. Hackers know that many people never change them, so they search for default login information, such as “admin” and “password,” which will give them full control.

“Home wireless devices usually come with two built-in encryption protocols, namely Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA / WPA2),” Miehe said.

Unfortunately, WEP, common on older routers, was found to have serious security flaws. Every router sold since 2006 supports WPA or WPA2. If you’ve got an old gateway that supports only WEP, it’s time to upgrade.

Check your router’s instruction manual to switch on encryption, which will make sure no outsiders can snoop on your transmissions. Create a strong network access password and then set up every laptop, tablet and smartphone in your household to automatically use it.

Turn on MAC filtering.

Another method of keeping out intruders is to create a “whitelist “of devices allowed to use the wireless network. Fortunately, every network interface of every Internet-capable device — computer, smartphone, gaming console or tablet — has a unique, permanent Media Access Control (MAC) “address.” Most home wireless routers will let you create an “invitation list” of MAC addresses.

“But some wireless adapters allow the user to change the MAC address as needed, which means that MAC filtering alone is not an efficient solution to keep intruders at bay,” Miehe warned. “However, it is an extra precaution that, paired with a strong WPA [password], will increase your wireless network’s security.”

Here’s a link to a website MAC Address Instructions that shows you how to find your device’s MAC addresses. Again, refer to the instruction guide to enable and configure MAC address filtering.

Those are the best an easiest ways to build walls around your network. Some security-conscious users go even further. They take the following steps to hide their networks from casual users or hackers who may be looking for a convenient way to hop onto the Internet.

Don’t give others your network access password.

“Business and Home networks are based on trust: there are no expensive authentication mechanisms set in place to minimize access to one resource or another,” Miehe said. “On the contrary, home users tend to make everything publicly available, in order for the information from one computer to be accessible to other machines in the household.”

That’s fine if you automatically set all Internet-ready devices to automatically use the password, which means your kids won’t have to type it in every time they use their iPads. Some routers allow you to create a second wireless network, which provides an Internet connection but doesn’t permit access to other machines on the network. If you have friends over, give them the password to this network.

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