How to Strengthen Your Wireless Network

Wireless networks are present in most homes and businesses. The convenience they offer can open unsecured paths into your network. The different levels of security options and configuration parameters can be confusing and lead to insecure setups which work, but leave you vulnerable to exploitation. There are 6 easy ways to strengthen your wireless network’s protection.

Use WPA2 encryption – Older security options like WEP can be broken in moments without special equipment or techniques using something as simple as a browser add-on or mobile phone application. WPA2 is the latest security algorithm which is included with virtually all wireless systems, and should be selected from the configuration screen.

Have a password longer than 10 characters – Even newer encryption schemes like WPA2 can be compromised using attacks which employ an automated process to try billions of possible passwords. Longer passwords don’t need to be hard to remember. Using a phrase like “makemywirelessnetworksecure” instead of a shorter, more complex password like “w1f1p4ss!” offers far more security, as the computing power to test and break such a long key cannot be realized.

Don’t use standard SSIDs – Many wireless routers ship with a default wireless network name (also known as the SSID) like “netgear” or “linksys” which most users do not bother to change. This SSID is used as part of the password by the WPA2 encryption. Not changing this allows hackers to prepare password look-up lists for common SSIDs (rainbow tables) which speed up the password cracking process drastically, enabling them to test millions of passwords per second.     Having a custom SSID drastically increases the work and time needed to attempt to compromise your wireless network.

Leave personal information out of your SSID – You don’t want to give hackers a way to know that your network is worth trying to compromise. Putting “John’s House” as the SSID provides information which might be useful to a nosy, tech-saavy neighbor or someone targeting your business. Don’t give hackers a way to see whether a wireless network is yours, or the one of the shop around the corner, use something vague which doesn’t identify you or your location.

In your password, add numbers, special characters and use upper and lower case characters – Complex passwords increase the amount of characters which must be considered when performing password cracking. For example, if your password consists of 4 digits and you only use numbers, there will be 10 times 4 (10,000) possibilities. If you additionally use the alphabet in only small cases, you will get 36 times 4 possibilities (1,6 million). Forcing a cracking program to choose from 104 characters times 11 digits results in 15,394,540,563,150,776,827,904 possibilities. This increases the time needed to crack such a password from seconds to millions of years.

Tune the range of the radio – Modern access points have multiple antennas and transmit power, letting their signal reach far beyond the walls of the places they are providing access to. Some products let you adjust the transmission power of the radio using menu options.  This provides a way to limit how far outside your location someone can pick up your wireless signal and work on compromising your network.

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