Protecting Your Wireless Internet Connection

Wireless Internet is becoming commonplace, with some cities even providing free Wi-Fi for their citizens in public places. Home users with wireless Internet connections are free from cables and the costs involved in ADSL, but there are risks involved in surfing the net on a wireless network.

Hacking, identify theft and neighbours using up your bandwidth are three of the main concerns for wireless users. It can be even more serious than that– if a hacker using your connection engages in illegal activity on the Internet, you could be in a world of legal trouble.

Here are the five steps for protecting your PC, your privacy and your pocket:

  1. Secure Your Hardware

The router or access point that connects you to the Internet will require you to input an administrator username and password to get into its settings. By default, the password is likely to be something predictable like "password" – it's important you change this as soon as possible, to something unique. This hardware is the main gate between your PC and the Internet, so make it as secure as possible.

  1. Turn off your SSID broadcast

Most routers and access points broadcast your SSID (Service Set Identifier) continuously to make it easy for you to add other wireless devices to your connection. Once you have added all the additional devices you want to, set your router to keep your SSID a secret – otherwise all the wireless devices in the area will see your connection.

  1. Forget WEP encryption - go for WPA.

The weaknesses of WEP (Wired Equivalency Privacy) encryption are well-known and are easy for even amateur hackers to get around and gain access to your wireless network. Use WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) as it allows more password characters than WEP. If you have a new router, you may find it has the latest and strongest version, WPA2.

  1. Tune Down Your Range

Some wireless routers and access points allow you to reduce the range of your WLAN transmitter's signal. With some careful trial and error, you can lessen the spread of your signal and reduce the risk of neighboring offices or homes using your connection.

  1. Check Your Usage

First, make a list of the MAC IDs and IP addresses of all the devices that should be connecting to the router. To find a MAC ID/IP address of your PC, type "cmd" into the Run protocol, and click OK. Into the screen that pops up, type ipconfig/all and press Enter. The address that pops up is your MAC address. Now check these against the MAC addresses listed in your router's logs. If one or more unknown MAC addresses appear, you will need to increase your security.

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