Keeping your Wireless Network Secure

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This article or section is based on a forum post written by yg17.


If you have a wireless network in your home it is important to keep it secure. If you do not it is very easy for someone to access your wireless network with their laptop. This makes it far easier for them to hack your computers as they are on your local network, and can lead to identity theft and lawsuits against you especially if P2P applications are used on your network.

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Wireless network security

There are three major standards of wireless security. If you have no security users can connect to your wireless network by anyone with a laptop within range of the network.

WEP

Totally insecure against any attacker, and with the latest software WEP takes only a couple of minutes to hack. However it will secure your wireless internet connection from use by casual users. Supported by any operating system/device that supports wireless networks.

WPA/WPA2

Fairly secure, though can be hacked by a determined attacker, especially if you use a weak password. Using a strong password makes attack more difficult. You are also less likely to have password problems than WEP. Supported by Mac OS X 10.3 or higher or Windows XP/Vista.

WPA2 is even more secure but less devices support it. A Mac with an Airport Extreme Card is required for WPA2, though various cards for Windows will also work.

Other methods of making accessing your wireless network harder

There are also several methods of making access to your wireless network more difficult. These are largely useless however and make accessing your own wireless network more difficult.

MAC Filtering

Every computer or internet device has a 'unique' MAC address which is the 'name' for the network hardware in your computer. However they are broadcast in the air with the wireless signal and with the right software you can find the MAC addresses in use on the network. Changing your MAC address can then be done with a one-line terminal command. This method is also harder to maintain, since visitors will need their MAC address added to the table on your router to be able to access your network.

SSID Hiding

The SSID is the name of your wireless network, and it is possible to hide this name from being displayed. However there are lots of programs which will sniff out all wireless networks and give you a list of them, whether or not they are hidden. Enabling this means you have to give visitors the network name as well as the password if they want to use your network and they may not be familiar with how to set it up.

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