Security is very important in our world today, whether it be online security or physical security (aka home/office security). This article will you everything about making your wireless computer network as secure as possible. I will go through everything from basic to advanced, so whether you are a beginner or an expert looking for ways to improve your computer security, hopefully you can find from this article a complete guide to wireless (WIFI) security!
WEP – Wired Equivalent Privacy
WEP stands for Wired Equivalent Privacy. It was created to provide a privacy level that is the equivalent of a wired network. WEP was originally added to wireless standards by the Wi-Fi Alliance and has been implemented into all new access points and wireless adapters which have been certified by the Wi-Fi alliance since 2001. Although this security method was cracked long ago, some manufacturers still continue to implement it in their equipment or add new features on top of it such as EAPs (Extensible Authentication Protocols). In other words, they have improved on an already broken system!
Wired Equivalent Privacy uses a bit key, which can be either 40bits, 104bits or 128bits long. Unfortunately this is shared between all users of a wireless network so there are many ways for an attacker to calculate the key if they know four things:
1) The service set identifier (SSID),
2) which channel the access point is using,
3) what type of encryption it’s using and
4) either the MAC address or SSID of one device connected to that access point.
To avoid having your WEP encrypted key figured out you should always choose a long password when setting up your wireless security on your router. Also, try not to use anything obvious such as birthdays or anniversaries.
WPA – Wi-Fi Protected Access
The Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) was released in 2003 and uses a TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol). This protocol changes the encryption keys up to 4 times per second, which means that even if an attacker did get hold of your encrypted key they wouldn’t be able to use it because its changed so frequently.
One thing you should keep in mind about WPA is that it only works on wireless adapters and access points which support TKIP. Also, all devices using WPA must use the same encryption method, otherwise they won’t be able to connect at all! If you have multiple users with both Mac and PC machines for example, you would need to upgrade your entire network at once or none of them will be able to connect to the wireless.
When using WPA you are required to have a 48bit or 128bit encryption key which is generated by the router upon setup. To do this, simply go to your router’s admin page and change the default administrative password for better security. You can then set up your encryption method under that page as well. Once you have it set up, be sure to write down both the correct encryption passkey along with all of your other network settings (such as SSID names, channel numbers) in a safe place so that if there is ever any issue with the wireless network you can quickly get it back up and running.
WPA2 – Wi-Fi Protected Access
WPA2 is the new standard that was created to replace WPA. Although WPA is secure for most users, there are still some issues which prevent it from being widely implemented. These include compatibility with older wireless adapters and access points, as well as an inability of reducing power usage of both the adapter and the access point.
With WPA2 all of these issues were corrected. There are three different configurations available: Personal (PSK), Enterprise (802.1x/RADIUS) and Open (none). When using PSK each computer must have its own password otherwise they won’t be able to connect on your network at all!
MAC Filtering – Changing Wireless Channels & SSIDs
As well as encryption, many wireless routers allow you to prevent access from specific devices through a process called MAC address filtering. They do this by either having the user type in the MAC address of their device or scanning for it themselves and then making an exception for just that one device on your network.
Unfortunately attackers can still get onto your network even if you have this enabled by spoofing (or faking) their MAC address to that of another computer which is allowed access. So if someone has stolen your neighbor’s wireless password they could easily bypass your router’s security with some simple software tools. It a good thing you have a complete guide to wireless (WIFI) security!
Although changing the channel on your router may help with performance issues, it also makes it easier for attackers to gain access because most routers use the same channel by default! So changing your channel to an uncommon one will improve security, but you should always consult information on the best channels for what your router is capable of.
Firewalls & Virus Protection for Your Computer and Router
One of the best things you can do to improve overall network security is install a good firewall for your computer and ensure that it’s always protected by an up-to-date virus scanner. You should also work out a schedule for when they get updated so that both are effective in protecting you from unwanted intrusions at all time.
In addition, if possible, have another router installed which would act as a firewall between your home network and other routers around the area. This additional router will then block any potential attacks that may be coming through from outside your house or small business.
So are we secure yet now that we have a complete guide to wireless (WIFI) security? If you’ve taken the time to read and understand all of the points above then you should be well on your way. The best thing for beginners would probably be to assume that they’re insecure and take it from there!