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Published on 03.20.06 by Brent Trahan

Secure Your Wireless Network

Learn how to secure your wireless network so that your neighbors or people passing by can’t access it.

Most people don’t realize how wide open their wireless networks are. People tell me all the time how concerned they were when they used their new laptop for the first time and noticed how easily it was for them to connect to their neighbor’s wireless networks.

By default most wireless routers and access points are VERY unsecured. The reason for this is because setting up an unsecured wireless network is difficult for many people. Setting up a secure wireless network would be even more difficult for most people.

As difficult as it may seem, it’s still well worth the trouble. You don’t want someone who doesn’t pay for broadband internet to use your internet connection right? You also don’t want someone using your internet connection to download illegal stuff using your connection right? I bet you really wouldn’t want someone digging around your computer for financial data and stuff like that right?

Most people can be stopped when trying to access your wireless network with the simple steps below. Please remember that none of the methods below are a 100% sure way of keeping people out of your wireless network. Following the methods below will keep 99% of them away.

Please note that there are many different brands and types of wireless routers and access points. There is no way I can show you how to do what I explain below step-by-step because every router is different. All of the steps to secure your wireless network talked about below can be done on most wireless routers and access points. Please read your manual or call your router or access point’s support if you need help.

Please note that if you change some settings in your wireless router you could cause your wireless network to stop working. Use this guide at your own risk.

Lock Down Access to Your Router or Access Point

Changing setting on your router or access point is easy. All you have to do is type in internet explorer, your router or access point will ask you for a password, you type the default password and boom you’re in.

It’s easy for someone else to do the same thing to your router or access point. All they have to do is exactly what you just did. They have just as much access as you do. You can stop this by simply changing the admin password on your router or access point. See your manual on how to change the admin password if you need help.

Control Your Broadcast Area

Many new wireless routers and access points have the ability to control how strong of a signal they send out. You can use this feature to adjust the signal of your router or access point to just be strong enough to cover your property. Adjusting your signal strength will make your signal too faint for most people around you to pick up. See your manual if you need help with this.

Disable SSID Broadcasts

An SSID is the name of your wireless network. A person who wants to connect to your wireless network simply has to tell Windows XP to scan for SSIDs. When a computer scans for SSIDs sends out a signal that says “Anyone out there?” by default your wireless router or access point says “Over here!”

You can stop your router or access point from responding by turning off SSID broadcasts. When you stop your router or access point from responding to SSID broadcasts it will stop responding to your computers as well. You will only be able to connect to your wireless network by manually typing in the SSID to connect to the wireless network for the first time.

It’s also a very good idea to change your router or access points SSID to a unique name. This will keep people from manually trying to get in your wireless network with SSID broadcasting turned off.

Encrypt Your Data

Let’s say you secure your wireless network with all of the above techniques and someone still gets in. Encrypting your data that travels over the air will add another layer to your wireless networks protection. See your router or access point’s manual on how to do this.

Limit the Number of DHCP IP Addresses

All wireless routers can act as DHCP servers. A DHCP server simply assigns your computers with an IP address so they can access your network and go online. You can think of an IP address as the physical address (like your street address) to your computer.

You can set your routers DHCP server to only give out a certain number of IP addresses. Set your DHCP server to only give out the number of IP addresses as computers you have. Doing this will keep your router from giving out more IP addresses than there are computers in your house.

Only allow certain MAC Addresses to Connect

You can limit only computers with certain MAC addresses to be able to connect to your wireless network. A MAC address is like a serial number that is hardwired into every computers NIC or wireless NIC. Every MAC address is unique to that device. See your router or access point’s manual on how to do this.

Good luck!

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