A wireless network is a type of computer network in which network nodes are connected using wireless data connections. Through wireless networking, telecommunications networks and business installations avoid the expenses involved in introducing cables in a building, or between various equipment locations. Wireless network promotes information sharing and boosts productivity, by giving us the freedom of being wherever we want to be with full access to our emails, applications, documents and other network resources. People have continuous access to the tools that are required to do their job. But on the downside they are by nature less secure than the wired ones.
Wireless networks are now common in organizations as well as homes. With hot spots popping everywhere – coffee shops, airports, fast food restaurants and hotels, wireless networks now provide lot more opportunities for hackers to do illegal activities and therefore securing wireless networks has now become the need of the hour.
Ignoring wireless security can be a huge mistake as a hacker or a malicious user can hack your organization or home network and commit serious crimes. Sensitive information can be gathered
from an unsecured network which can prove to be very costly for you or your organization.
Following are some simple steps which can be followed to secure a wireless network:
Changing the Default password of the wireless router:
There is a default user name, password and IP address with every wireless router and this information is available with every router manual. This information gives the GUI interface to configure the router. So, the first thing that we should do is change these default settings so that an anonymous user can’t change the configuration settings. The password you choose to replace the original should be alpha–numeric.
Using strong encryption:
Strong encryption makes it possible for the information to be not accessible to others, by scrambling the information you send into a code. This is the most effective way of securing your network from infiltrators. The three types of encryption available in wireless network are – Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and WPA2, which are further classified as WPA Personal, WPA2 Enterprises, etc. WEP is most vulnerable encryption for the wireless network. It can be easily compromised by the hacker.
All your equipment including the computer and router must use the same encryption. WPA2 is the strongest encryption, so you should use that if you can. If you have an old router, you should consider buying one with WPA2 capability, as the older ones cannot give protection against some common hacking programs. Wireless routers come with the encryption feature turned off, so you will have to turn it on.
Enable MAC address filtering in the router:
Most wireless networks and routers come with a feature called hardware or MAC address filtering. This feature is usually turned “off” as it requires an effort to set it up. But if you want to improve the security of your Wi-Fi connection, you should enable and use Mac address filtering. If the Mac address filtering is not working, any client can join the Wi-Fi network if they know the network name and encryption keys. If the Mac address filtering is enabled, the router will perform an additional check on a different criterion. Even though this feature gives a greater chance of preventing network break-ins, it is not a foolproof method as it can be bypassed by a hacker.
Hide your SSID of the wireless network:
Hiding your Wi-Fi network cuts it off from intruders who don’t know the SSID. This technique might have some flaws but it is easy to execute. The SSID (Service Set Identifier) is the name that the router broadcasts to identify itself. You might have used this feature if you have ever connected to a wireless network and it helps users to separate various signals that are riding the airwaves. For example, if you visit a coffee shop with free Wi-Fi, you will know the right network to connect to, as it will be labeled with the shop’s name. SSID’s are broadcast voluntarily and it can be turned off. When you turn of the SSID, others will not be able to pick up the broadcast of your wireless network and they will not know to whom the network belongs to.
Set complex and alpha–numeric password for Wi-Fi:
It is difficult to break in a complex alpha-numeric password. A password which is 8 character alpha-numeric pass phrase can secure a home wireless LAN and an organization’s password can be a little more complex than that. Such passwords are a string of characters which are designed to secure a home or organization’s wireless network. There are WPA-PSK cracking tools which can do a fast exhaustive search of likely passwords, therefore making the network vulnerable to attacks when simple pass phrases are used.
Enable firewall if it is available in the router:
There are many firewall available in the market and one of them is the router firewall. The router firewall unlike the softer firewall blocks incoming query requests at server level, keeping your entire network safe. Turning on the router firewall keeps the network safe as the router is the only point connecting any computer on your network to the internet and it is also the end points of most networks.
Use static IP address for devices:
Static IP address (also called fixed addressing) is an alternative to dynamic addressing for networks. The advantages of IP addressing includes good support for name resolution, so that the computer can be reached by its host/domain name by the network. Also, DHCP is not supported by all network devices and static IP address assignment for all devices guarantees potential address conflicts. DHCP on the other hand supplies addresses which are already assigned elsewhere.
Update your Wi-Fi router firmware regularly:
You should check your firmware updates regularly. The software that operates your router is called Firmware. They releases new firmware versions regularly to add new features and improve product performance and security related issues. If there is a problem with your router, it is suggested to update your router to the latest firmware as the first troubleshooting step.