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Tips to Secure Your Home Wi-Fi Network

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Going wireless at home allows us freedom, but it also opens up more possibilities of allowing uninvited users like our neighbors or hackers. Eric Geier, author of Wi-Fi Hotspots: Setting Up Public Wireless Internet Access, points out important steps beyond encryption to secure your home Wi-Fi network.
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Wireless routers let you share your Internet connection and files among all your computers — without wires. You can surf the web from the lazy chair, the deck, or wherever the signals reach. However, you need to make sure your neighbors aren’t taking advantage of you. Without securing your router, anyone within range can steal your Internet connection, see what websites you’re visiting, and possibly access your files.

It’s important to understand that securing your Wi-Fi signals is possible. Don’t let security worries stop you from enjoying the freedom of wireless connectivity. In this article, we’ll discuss tips to properly secure your wireless router. If you follow these guidelines, you won’t have to worry about your files being accessed by strangers, your credit card information captured from the airwaves, and other bad scenarios you might think up. You can sit back and enjoy.

Without further ado, follow these tips to lock down your Wi-Fi network:

Use Encryption — Preferably WPA2

By default, the information that travels to and from your wireless router and your computers is in clear-text, so people can snoop on what you are doing and see sensitive information. Additionally, by default, anyone can connect to your network. However, you can scramble the information that’s sent over the airwaves by using encryption. This would also password-protect your network so others can’t connect.

The Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA/WPA2) encryption standards have replaced the Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) standard. WEP was cracked long ago and doesn’t provide adequate Wi-Fi security. It can still help keep average Wi-Fi users off your network; however, in some cases the WEP keys can be cracked within minutes by hackers. Thus, if you don’t find the router and all the wireless adapters in your computers support WPA/WPA2, you should still at least use WEP encryption. But you should first try to upgrade the drivers of the old wireless adapters and/or upload any firmware updates to the router. You might also have to install a Windows update on XP or older Windows versions. Then if the newer encryption standards still aren’t supported, buy replacements as soon as you can.

The first WPA version, which uses a different way to encrypt/decrypt than WPA2, has also become vulnerable recently. However, right now the vulnerabilities exist only on networks that have a poor encryption passphrase/key. Additionally, it’s not a big deal since if your networking gear supports WPA, it probably supports WP2.

To recap, first try to use WP2 encryption; if that’s not supported, try WPA; as a last resort, use WEP.

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