Thinking of how to Secure your Wireless Router..

Posted: September 13, 2009 in All Categories, Firmware, hardware
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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As you know everything these days is wireless. But, rarely do we care how we connect, instead often just get online. A lot of wireless routers that are available offer very useful features that you probably didn’t know about. Chances are if you’ve never accessed your router’s settings, you are just running the defaults which means your neighbors or anyone who drives by could potentially access your data or perform a criminal act that points to you. However, there are times when it’s OK to take the shields down and let people leech off your network. For that reason, you may want to periodically check who is accessing it. In most routers, they have a status page to display connected computers.

To learn how to secure a wireless router there are three important things to know: SSID (Service set identification), MAC (Media Access Control) Address, and WEP(Wired Equivalent Privacy) / WPA (Wifi Protected Access), don’t worry I will not bug on this tech terms. Let me explain it in 5 simple steps..

Step 1) Access Your Wireless Router’s Configuration: log in to your wireless router administrative control panel. This is usually done by opening a browser and going to http://192.168.1.1 (for most Linksys routers) or http://192.168.0.1 (for most D-Link routers). Check the user manual or quick-start guide that came with your router if either of those do not work. (Once there change the Admin password. Most wireless routers ship with a blank password. It is essential that this is changed else a potential hacker could get into your router configuration and lock you out of your own hardware. Many Linksys wireless routers, use the word “admin” as the default password. Either way, you should change this to something only you know and never give this out to anyone.)

Step 2) Change the SSID name: The SSID is your Network Name. That is, it’s how other computers know what to look for when connecting to your wireless network. Linksys wireless routers use “linksys” as their default name. D-Link uses, get ready, “dlink” as their default. Changing this to a unique name, but not something related to a personal password or anything personally identifiable. My tip i have seen wireless networks named things like, “computer-virus” and they like to scare people off.

Step 3) Disable/Turn-off SSID broadcast: By default, almost all wireless routers broadcast the SSID name you setup above. This means that anyone within range of your router (neighbors, random strangers driving by, criminals, etc.) can find out the name of your network and thus try to connect to it. Make it a bit harder by disabling this broadcast feature. Combined with the unique name above, these two steps will certainly ward off the casual wi-fi poachers.

Step 4) Enable WPA or WPA2 encryption: This is switched off by default. There is a choice of WEP, WPA and WPA2. Currently the latest encryption method is WPA2 so use this where possible. Both your wireless router and wireless PC adaptor must be configured to use the same encryption, it is the most effective and most important part of securing your wi-fi network as well as the information you send across it.

The benefits here are 2-fold:

1) It makes access to your wireless network password-protected.
2) It encrypts all the data you send while browsing the internet (credit card numbers, email passwords, etc.).

You’ll want to use WPA2 if your wireless router gives you that option and your computer supports it. If it does not, go with WPA. Do not even bother with WEP encryption, as this has been proven to be hackable in minutes and really only offers a false sense of security. You will be required to enter a password, or “shared key,” when setting this up. For this, you’ll want to pick a long string of both capital and lowercase letters as well as numbers. Stick with a string of ten characters or more to be safe, although some security experts suggest going with something over twenty characters. Keep in mind that you might have to give this out to trusted visitors and weekend guests, so don’t make this the same as any other password you use.

Step 5) (Optional) MAC address filtering: As said this is more optional which works well on most branded routers. All hardware has a unique MAC address associated with it, including your PC adaptor card. This MAC address can be added to access control list in the wireless router. Only devices added to the router’s access control list are allowed to be connected. Why did I make it optional simple with MAC address filtering, you can tell your wireless network to only allow access from certain computers by inputting their MAC address into the router settings. However, from a hacker’s point of view, what this does is give them a list of MAC addresses that can access the network and gives them one more piece of information to help them snoop around on your network. Also other good tip with this is to Disable web access to the Control Panel. The fact is, once you set up all this stuff you rarely have to access the Control Panel anyway, so this just makes it all the more secure.

Final get some help out of your router manufacturer like update your router latest router firmware from the manufacturer’s website and installed in the router. This will hopefully fix any bugs that have been found for your router and also help with any known security flaws in the router itself., finally backup all router settings. If you reset the router back to its factory default settings even by mistake, your configuration can later be easily restored back with this.

Tip: The major wireless router manufacturers are Linksys/Cisco, D-Link, and Netgear. You will see these brands dominate in most retail stores. Look for sales because these manufacturers often discount models from week to week and you can sometimes find a good deal for substantially less cost. Online, you will also see brands, such as Asus, Belkin, Buffalo Technology, Beetel and SMC, all worthy of consideration

To even make it complete, I found the right video where GetConnected hosts Mike Agerbo and AJ Vickery discuss wireless router security and give some simple tips on how to keep yourself and your home computers protected from an unexpected attack

Happy WIRELESS Surfing..

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