Is your wireless network secure?

Comments Off Written on July 23rd, 2010 by
Categories: Blog, Networking, Security
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Google’s Street View is back in the news. Back in May Google admitted that the technology it used to take images with its Street View cars may have inadvertently gathered private information from unsecured Wireless Networking (Wi-Fi) networks. An articlefrom PCWORLD stated that the nonprofit Consumer Watchdog claims to have “retraced some of the routes taken by Google’s Street View cars, and found that four residences of U.S. Congress members it checked had vulnerable networks, according to a BBC report. One of them was Congressman Henry Waxman, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over Internet issues.”

Google announced that it has removed the old software code and Wi-Fi scanning equipment that accidentally collected the unsecured information from countless Wi-Fi signals. However, this brings to light the importance of ensuring that your company and personal Wi-Fi signals are secured. Wi-Fi has enabled computing to be more mobile and is used not only by computers but also mobile phones, video game consoles and peripherals. Unfortunately, the ease of use also makes it quite vulnerable to steal. Someone in the next building over or parked outside your home may be able to detect and log onto your wireless network. People may piggyback on your Wi-Fi without malicious intent – however having an unsecured signal exposes your private data to anyone that connects to your Wi-Fi, including hackers.

Here are the basic components to securing your wireless router:
1. Open your router settings page – this can usually be found by typing 192.168.1.1 into your web browser. Having your manual as a reference is quite helpful. If you threw that out with the box, you should be able to do a simple search online for your brand and model to find it.
2. Change the default password for your router
3. Change your wireless network name (SSID) or turn off broadcasting of your SSID
4. Enable network encryption – there are several methods: WEP (basic and least secure but better than nothing), WPA and WPA2 (most secure but not compatible with older hardware).
5. For added protection, filter the MAC addresses allowed on your network – a MAC address is a unique identifier that all devices that connect to the internet possess. You can add the MAC addresses of your devices to the router’s administrative settings page.

Of course, there is no guarantee that you are 100% protected against a hacker by implementing these security measures. Especially in a business setting, you will have to think about firewall, web and malware solutions as well. However, this may deter a hacker from spending too much time trying to crack your network and move onto your neighbor’s network – our your local Congress member.

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