How to Secure your Wireless Home Network

Geek!This is Kenny Mozzillo’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

Most people have a wireless home network these days. In the past few years, the cost of setting up a wireless home network has dropped. Setting up a wireless home network is much easier than it is to string networking wire through your walls and connect wall plates. In most cases, setting up a wireless home network is cheaper and easier than installing a wired network. Here’s a top five list on how to secure you wireless home network so that all of your hard-earned money used to pay for Internet access is not stolen by your neighbors.

  • Position you router in the middle of your home. This reduces the amount of signal that leaks outside the house and (therefore) makes it harder for neighbors to pick it up. Most people don’t take this tip into consideration when they set up a wireless home network – it’s the easiest way to help enhance the security of your wireless home network. Security through obscurity.
  • Turn on the wireless encryption! This sounds like a “duh,” but you would be surprised at how many people have an unsecured wireless network at home (or work). I’ve talked with many people who said that they didn’t turn on the encryption on their home network because they doubted that anyone would bother them. This would be the equivalent of leaving your house unlocked when you go somewhere because you didn’t think anyone would break in. It is very simple to enable encryption on all wireless access points. The best encryption mode is WPA2. WEP and WPA both have been cracked before, and it isn’t that difficult for someone to break the encryption key in a few minutes. Be sure to choose a password that no one can guess – never use things such as your pet’s name, your address, or your birthday as a password.
  • Enable Wireless MAC Address Filtering. This is another feature that most people forget to enable. This allows a set amount of devices to get on the network (if their MAC address is placed on the list). Setting up this feature is fairly simple to do – even for the average person. If you need help, check your manual – and if you threw away your manual, I bet the manufacturer put a PDF of the manual on their Web site.
  • Use home network monitoring software. This will allow you to scan the local network for mysterious devices that are connected to it. If you have a home network that has five devices connected to it, and the IP address scanner finds eight devices, you should look into what is connected that shouldn’t be connected to your network. Most home networking tools are free and can be easily found on any platform.
  • Turn off the Access Point. When you are not home for an extended period of time, turn off your access point. This will ensure that when you are on vacation you will not have to worry about someone getting into your shared files on a PC.

If you keep these five points in mind when you are running a wireless home network, you shouldn’t have to worry about your neighbor and other people getting into your wireless network. If you have anything else to add, please be sure to comment on this blog post.

6 thoughts on “How to Secure your Wireless Home Network”

  1. Also keep the SSID hidden. It’s also a good idea to change your key regularly because if your traffic is sniffed, it can be easily cracked. (KisMAC promises to do this in under a minute, I think). If you want to check for other devices, you don’t necessarily need an application, just go to your router’s config page and look at IP addresses. You should change the default password for your router’s admin page so that if someone does get on your network, they won’t have direct control over your router.

  2. Kenny, thanks for the informative article.

    I got into wireless networking when living with my ex-wife. She was nervous about the idea of my stringing networking cables around her little house.

    Now that I’m single again, I’m using Apple’s Airport Extreme Base Station (AEBS) and using most of the protection you’re describing.

    My only stumbling block is the MAC address thing. I wrote down the MAC addresses of my computers the other day. But I just can’t quite put the rest of the process together.

    I lost the list, but will recreate it, and try once again.

    Maybe I’ll bump into you in the forums, and you can help provide some encouragement?!

    Happy Holidays

    Ron Knights

  3. The most secure wireless network is one that does not exist. Not having a wireless network will ensure that no one will bother it. I have a wired home network at home because I live in a city that has many other networks. I believe that a wired home network is more dependable.

    Thanks

    Tyler

  4. Good info! It’s amazing how many people don’t secure their network. I live in a populated area with close homes and when I view the wireless networks there are like 6 unsecured around my house!

Comments are closed.