The stark truth is that no computer network is completely safe. Nobody has yet invented the hacker proof computer. Internet Service Providers, cable and wireless carriers are doing the best they can to make home and business computing as safe and secure as possible. There are a number of precautions each one of us can take in order to protect our computers.
Wired internet connections, that is those transmitted down a telephone wire or dedicated cable, are encrypted in order to make it more difficult for unwelcome visitors to snoop on private networks. Transmitting wireless signals through the air adds several dimensions to an already tricky problem. Unprotected wireless networks can be intercepted by wireless capable computers within the near vicinity.
So How Do I Protect My Wireless Network?
There are a few simple steps that you can take to deter unauthorised access to your network.
1. Change the user names and passwords that come with your equipment.
Most home user Wi-Fi networks include a router or access point. Before you can access the internet, you have to sign in, usually through a web-based control panel. These tools will be password protected. The default user name and password will be fairly simple to remember in order to speed up the process. You should change these details immediately. Ideas for choosing more secure passwords can be found in the related article, "Strong Password Authentication Essential to Your Computer Security".
2. Switch on the Wi-Fi encryption capability.
Your Wi-Fi equipment will include the ability to encrypt the messages sent and received over the network. It is vital that you ensure this facility is activated. Also, the encryption settings for each piece of equipment within your network must be identical.
3. Change the name of your network.
Every Wi-Fi router or access point comes with a network name or Service Set identifier (SSID). This will usually take the form of the service provider name, for instance BT Home Hub or Belkin, possibly followed by a number. Although knowing the name of your network doesn't automatically allow access, it can make unauthorised interception more difficult if you change it. Again, refer to "Strong Password Authentication Essential to Your Computer Security ".
4. Disable the roaming facility.
When I turn my laptop on, I can search for wireless networks that are available within reach of my wireless receiver. The available networks could belong to my neighbours or a nearby free Wi-Fi hotspot. If you are my neighbour and I can freely access your network, it means that you have allowed anybody within the nearby vicinity to do so. In order to stop potential hackers from entering your network at will, you need to disable your wireless router's roaming facility, or SSID broadcasting.
5. Enable firewall protection.
Most wireless routers incorporate a firewall. You should make sure that the firewall is always enabled. This will keep to keep unwelcome visitors at bay. It is also advisable to make sure that each computer in your network is additionally protected by a firewall.
6. Be careful where you put your wireless router.
Wireless signals are able to go through walls and windows. If you place your router next to an exterior wall you will be inviting other people from outside your home to access your network. Site your wireless equipment as near as possible to the centre of your home so that any signal that might find its way out into the big wide world will be very weak and insignificant.
In conclusion, although by no means totally foolproof, these few sound suggestions will help to keep your wireless network and your computer safe from the neighbourhood hacker.