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Stalker or Neighbor? Maintaining A Secure Wi-Fi Connection

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Wi-Fi, or Wireless Networking to give it a full title has given every internet user much more flexibility inside and outside of the home. In the present day we can hook up our PC, laptop, cell phone and any other internet enabled device to the network without the need for connecting cables and wires and that, in turn, allows us to work and surf anywhere in the home – and even out in the yard if we wish.

However, that added flexibility can bring some additional problems if we don’t secure our connection and keep it safe from anyone in the vicinity. By its very nature, a Wi-Fi signal is wide reaching and can extend any where from 50 to 100 meters beyond the router. That means that not only can you and your family access the connection, your neighbors and any random passer-by could potentially hack into your network at the same time, bypassing the best home security system.

Maintaining A Secure Wi-Fi Connection

That means that your passwords, browsing history and personal details could all be at risk—so how do you make sure that your Wi-Fi connection is completely secure?

Change the Router Password
When your new router is delivered, it is likely to be supplied with a very basic password (in some cases, there may be no password at all). It may be extreme to suggest that someone could infiltrate your network by typing something as basic as the word ‘Password,’ but it’s certainly possible. Your router could also use a simple combination of words and numbers that can be easily negotiated by an experienced hacker.

When setting your router password, the usual rules apply –  use a strong and obscure set of numbers, letters and symbols, but don’t make it so complicated that you may forget it in the future.

Change your default SSID
The SSID, or Service Set Identifier, is the name given to the new wireless network at your home or place of business. When your equipment is supplied, it will have a generic name—usually that of the supplier such as Netgear—or it may simply say ‘default’.

Reset that SSID for added security, but don’t choose something that identifies its owner. The opportunist hacker is likely to be dissuaded if they cannot identify the source so don’t be tempted to use examples such as ‘Dave’s network’ or ‘744 Evergreen Terrace’  that are clear indications of ownership.

Enable Wireless Encryption
Wi-Fi’s default setting is unencrypted, so it’s vital that you set this up as soon as your equipment is installed. There are two different types of wireless encryption, WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) and WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access), but one is far easier to hack than the other. The wrong choice could cost you.

WEP Encryption can be accessed and overridden using very simple hacking techniques.  The majority of online security experts will insist that WPA is far stronger—although it has been hacked on occasion, it happens rarely. If your router only offers a WEP option, consider changing it over.

Remember, you will need to configure encryption at the router and at all the computers and internet enabled devices on its network.

Make sure your Firewall is enabled
Your new router system is supplied with a Firewall, but don’t assume that it’s automatically enabled as soon as your Wi-Fi has been set up. Double check that it’s working and be confident in an additional security measure.

Safety outside the home
All of these measures will help you to stay safe while using your own home or workplace Wi-Fi, but what if you need to access a network outside of your own property? Public Wi-Fi hotspots are commonplace and convenient, but they do come with a risk.

To stay safe, only use legitimate hotspots from trusted companies with established names, and be certain that your firewall is enabled. If at all possible, avoid making financial transactions and don’t enter into any correspondence that requires bank or credit card details.

Wi-Fi hacking may be relatively rare but it does happen and there have been many high profile cases where the owner’s details have been compromised. Fortunately, you don’t need advanced knowledge of programming to follow these simple steps—as your router is delivered, you can follow these hints and stay secure.

This guest post was written by Kevin Raposo.  Kevin is a blogger for SimpliSafe Home Security, covering issues related to security, tech, crime, safety, and consumer issues. When he’s not writing he’s usually playing the drums or exercising at the gym.  SimpliSafe is a leader in the wireless home security industry.

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