We live in a world where literally every device is internet enabled meaning we need to access the internet on the go to. Fortunately, Wireless networks are almost everywhere enabling us to access the internet from anywhere without requiring addition hardware such as cables. However, the easy accessibility of these networks makes them a good fishing ground for online criminals which is why we need to rethink the security of our wireless networks.
Nuts and bolts of wireless Network?
A wireless network is an internet access point that allows you to connect multiple devices to the internet without requiring a network cable for each device. If well configured, a home wireless network is an easy way to access the internet from anywhere in your house. However, unless well secured wireless networks are not always safe and they could be the beginning of your woes.
Online fraudsters are busy looking for ways to hack into your home and office wireless networks. All they need is to identify and exploit a weakness in your wireless network to break in. There two common vulnerabilities found in wireless network that you need to watch out for. One is problem to do with poor network configuration which include using weak passwords or having poorly configured security settings. The second weakness have something to do with weak encryption.
Why harden your wireless network?
In a perfect world you wouldn’t need to secure your network because everybody would mind their own business. Unfortunately, we leave in second best world where everyone seem to have something fishy up their sleeves and trust does not come that easily. Ideally, we secure our wireless networks to keep off disgusting freeloaders who use up our bandwidth and slow down internet speeds, all for free.
More importantly, hardening your wireless network secures your personal information and exempts you from numerous online scams. Lastly, a well-fortified home wireless network secures you from identity theft crimes. You probably are familiar with case of Kostolnik, where his new neighbor Aldorf hacked his WEP encrypted Wi-Fi, uploaded child pornography and sent threatening emails to top politicians included Vice President of US all in the name of Kostolnik.
Although there is nothing like a 100% secure web, applying the following few tips will go a long way in hardening your home wireless network against potential attacks.
Tips to enhance your home/work wireless network security
Use a strong password.
It is hard to emphasize the importance of a strong password in all your accounts. Using 654321 or a pet name as your Wi-Fi’s password is as good as locking your house – and putting the keys under a flower pot next to your door. Hackers are aggressive people and will do anything to crack your password, so don’t make it easy for them. For a strong password, use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbol and special characters. Never use a password that is associated with you or your family. Passwords which are based on special events such as anniversaries or Birthdays are as easy to crack as using the word ‘password’ as your password.
Enable MAC address filtering
Normally, your Wi-Fi router keeps a record of the Media Access Control (MAC) Addresses of all devices connected to it. The MAC address or physical address uniquely identifies each internet connecting devices such as Laptops, iPad, Xbox360 etc. To secure your wireless network, create a list of the Mac addresses of all your devices and set the router to filter connections based on the list. Devices not on the list are automatically denied access to the network regardless whether the intruder has a legit password or not. The MAC Address of your device can be found in a label affixed to it, or simply, read the addresses when all your devices are logged on.
Enable network encryption
A strong encryption will beat any hacker anytime. The two encryption protocols used in wireless network are Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) security protocols. To break into your wireless network, a hacker need to find and exploit any vulnerabilities in WEP or WP2. WEP protected Wi-Fi are generally weak and easy to crack. On contrary, Wi-Fi protected Access (WPA1/2) protocol is strong and the best encryption to use in your wireless networks.
Enable router firewall
Having a personal firewall for all your devices is an easy way to block unwanted incoming and outgoing connections. A good firewall will notify you when someone tries to connect to your wireless network. All major operating systems come with pre-installed firewall, all you need is to activate it. Most wireless routers also have a firewall feature. Go to your router’s setting and activate the firewall.
Configure Wireless router to use static IP addresses
Most internet providers use DHCP technology to generate a new IP address for your device every time you connect to the internet. While these dynamic IP addresses may have numerous advantage they also have some setbacks that could give the attacker a undeserving edge. For instance, an attacker could get a valid IP address from your router’s DHCP pool making it easy for him to attack your network. We recommend configuring your router to use a fixed IP address for your devices. Your chosen static IP address should be within the Standard private IP address range e.g 172.16.0.0 through 172.31.255.255.
Keep your router’s software up-to-date
Proverbially, old is gold but in the IT world or in matters to do with network security. Outdated software have numerous vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers to gain access into your network. Worse still, most outdated software are out of commercial support implying their developers’ no longer release patches for new security holes. To be on the safe side, ensure your wireless router is running on the latest software by having a firmware upgrade from time to time. Check for new firmware releases on your software’s developer websites.
Switch off your Home wireless network when not in use
Switching off your router during extended hours of non-use gives you several advantages. First it reduces the attackers contact hours with your wireless network which reduces the possibility of being hacked. Secondly, it cuts on power bills and reduces the chances of damaging your network gear due to power surges or overheating.
Hide your wireless network SSID name
This is simply preventing your wireless network from broadcasting into the neighborhood. The fact that your Wi-Fi appears on your neighbors “available networks list” is enough motivation for them to hack it especially when their Wi-Fi is down. Hiding your SSID is not itself a security measure because hackers can still detect it using one of the many wireless hacking tool we discussed in our previous article.
Change your wireless network SSID name
Normally, your wireless router is shipped using a default SSID name and password. The default name could be something like the manufacturer name such as Cisco or Netgear. While there may be no harm in using the default name, it could give the hacker important leads such as your router’s manufacturer. Changing your router’s SSID name and password to something unique denies the hacker any clue about your router. It also makes it easy for you to identify your Wi-Fi in a list of many networks using the same SSID name. As a rule of thumbs, never use an SSID name that could be identified with you or your family.
Turn off Guest Networking
If you’re not careful, some wireless routers have the Guest access feature enabled by default. This allows anyone to access your wireless network without requiring a security key. Enabling guest access could be a good thing for a coffee shop but dangerous for a home or office wireless network. To stay safe, go to your router setting and turn off the Guest access option (if you find it). Alternatively, set a strong password for guest access to be used only by your guests.
In a nutshell, hardening your home wireless network is the first step in ensuring the safety of your family on potentially dangerous web. Although, a simple password may keep off freeloaders from using up your bandwidth, it may never protect your from aggressive hackers who have no limits. As a result you need to harden your wireless network against potential attacks using the few tips we have discussed in this article. We also recommend you to take a look at some of the best wireless hacking tools to get a better idea on how to protect your home wireless network.
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