For those who use wireless at home, I have a few questions for you to consider. Do you do online banking from you home computer or your laptop? Do you shop online from home? Do you keep a record of personal files on your computer that are meant for your eyes only? If you are like the majority of people that own a personal computer, then you answered yes to at least one of these three questions. Now more importantly, can you answer this question? When you are shopping on line and you are sending your credit card number over a wireless connection, is it visible for all to see? Not sure? Well, how about this one. Can your neighbor piggy back on your wireless connection? Not sure? Well I have good news! I am going to help you to be sure that when you are using your wireless at home you are protecting yourself from harmful attacks, and from others that may attempt to steal your bandwidth.
Wireless communication is one of the greatest changes in networking technology and is growing at a tremendous rate. With the growth of this technology comes the challenge of protecting the data that is contained within the packets of information. Wireless communication uses traditional security mechanisms such as access control and authentication, but adds additional security through the use of encryption. What is encryption? Well Im glad you asked, youre going to love this! Data encryption is algorithmic schemes and mathematical calculations that transform plaintext into cyphertext which needs a key to decrypt the data and put it back in its original format. Okay, okay, I know its starting to sound a little techie. Lets put it in simple to understand terms. Remember the movie A Christmas Story? Remember when Ralphie finally received the Orphan Annie secret decoder ring and locked himself in the bathroom? Remember Randy was banging on the door because he had to go so bad? I loved that part! Okay, this is not as sophisticated, but it goes by the same principle. Ralphie needed the key to transform the message from cyphertext back to plaintext. If he didnt have the key he wouldnt have know to be sure to drink his Ovaltine. So as you can see encryption is a very important part of protecting your data when using wireless communication.
How do you know if your wireless router is up to par? There are three types of encryption that wireless routers may or may not come equipped with. Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), and WPA2 (the updated version of WPA) are the three players in wireless encryption. WEP is old technology and can be hacked with very little effort. Basic WEP specifies the use of up to 64-bit encryption. WAP is the most recent and secure form of encryption and was created to correct several weaknesses in the WEP standard. WPA data is encrypted using a 128-bit encryption. There are many acronyms I can throw at you about WPA2, but I dont want to get too techie on you. Just know that if you have a wireless router that does not use WPA/WPA2, get a new router that does!
Okay, enough about encryption. Lets talk about other things you can do to protect your data. You can set your router up to do what is called MAC address filtering. What is a MAC address? A MAC address is like your social security number. Every device that is made has a MAC address and there are no two that are the same. A devices MAC is its social. You can set you router to allow only the MAC addresses you allow to have access to your router. Next, set up a unique SSID. I know, I know, what is an SSID? It is a Service Set Identifier, or in simpler terms a password to get on to your network. Set yours up and turn off the automatic broadcasting. By default your router is most likely set up to broadcast its SSID. That is like telling hackers Hey! Here I am! Come and hack me! Be sure to disable this function. One last tip I can give you is to change the default password for your router. Many hackers know that the typical home user doesnt know to change the default password on their routers. The passwords to most routers are common knowledge, or can be found on the internet.
So to recap the things you should do to protect yourself from hackers or from someone stealing you bandwidth.
Make sure your router is using WPA/WPA2. If not get one that does!
Set up MAC address filtering.
Set up a unique SSID and disable the broadcast feature.
Change your routers default password.
Okay, I have given you some valuable tips to keep yourself protected. There is plenty of information on the internet and in books that can help assist you in getting these things done. If you cant get the answer you are looking for, give me a call. I will assist in any way that I can! Oh yea, and dont forget to drink your Ovaltine.