If you have a wireless network at home, have you taken basic steps to secure it? One important step you can take is to change the default password of your router to something only you know. Wireless routers typically arrive with a default password like “admin” or “password.” Changing this to a secure password protects your router – and your computer – from attack, including a new stealthy attack recently discovered by researchers which could lead to loss of your personal information and passwords. Turning on the encryption capabilities of your wireless router, especially WPA and WPA2, provides additional protection but can be slightly harder to configure.
- Enable the security features that come with the wireless network. Yes, the wired equivalent privacy (WEP) standard for the popular 802.11 LANs has been broken into, but a little security is better than no security at all.
- Don’t use default or obvious passwords or keys.
- Register the unique media access control (MAC) addresses of the network interface cards that access your network. It is possible to fake a MAC address, but again, something is better than nothing.
- Secure the access points by putting them on switched network ports, as Gartner suggests, or by putting them outside a firewall.
- Monitor the network.
- Monitor physical security. Is there anyone sitting in the parking lot trying to listen in on the network?
- If your applications are Web-based, use secure socket layer encryption. This adds an extra layer of security.
- Use a wireless virtual private network (VPN) or other tunneling protocol.
It may be impossible to eliminate risk, but it can be mitigated, especially when it comes to wireless LANs. Also be sure to consult the manufacturer’s website or your manual to identify how to change default passwords and configure encryption for your particular equipment.