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How To Lock Down Your Wireless Network

Securing your wireless network is a simple process that costs nothing and could save you from a disastrous network breach down the road.

By Alex Wawro
November 11, 2011 09:30 AM ET

PC World - If you operate a wireless network for your home or business, it's important to ward it against opportunistic hackers seeking to steal your data or hijack your Wi-Fi for their own nefarious purposes. We spoke to Steven Andrs, CTO of security consulting firm Special Ops Security, to learn about the best ways to lock down your Wi-Fi. To get started, you'll need to log in to your router's administrative console by typing the router's IP address into your Web browser's address bar. Most routers use a common address like 192.168.1.1, though alternatives like 192.168.0.1 and 192.168.2.1 are also common. Check the manual that came with your router to determine the correct IP address; if you've lost your manual, you can usually find the appropriate IP address on the manufacturer's website.

Change Your Passwords

The first step in securing your network is simple: change your passwords! Default router passwords like "admin" are seductively simple to remember, but that means they're equally simple for a hacker to guess; there's even a public database containing default login credentials for more than 450 networking equipment vendors. While no password is foolproof, you can build a better password by combining numbers and letters into a complex and unique string. Remember to change both your Wi-Fi password (the string guests type in to access your network) as well as your router administrator password (the one you enter to log into the administration console--these two may sometimes be the same). Andrs suggests that you change your passwords to something completely unique--no pet names--then write them down on a piece of paper and tape it to your router for safekeeping.

Change Your SSID

Every wireless network has a name, known as a Service Set ID (or SSID). The simple act of changing that name discourages serial hackers from targeting you, because wireless networks with default names like "linksys" are more likely to lack custom passwords or encryption, making them a tempting target for opportunistic hackers. Don't bother disabling SSID broadcasting; you might be able to ward off casual Wi-Fi leechers that way, but any hacker with a wireless spectrum scanner can still find your SSID by listening in as your devices communicate with your router.

Enable WPA2 Encryption

If possible, you should always encrypt your network traffic using WPA2 encryption, which offers better security than the older WEP and WPA technologies. If you have to choose between multiple versions of WPA2-- like WPA2 Personal or WPA2 Enterprise--always pick the setting most appropriate for your network. Unless you're setting up a large-scale business network with a RADIUS server, you'll want to stick with WPA2 Personal encryption.

Originally published on www.pcworld.com. Click here to read the original story.
Reprinted with permission from PCWorld.com. Story copyright 2012 PC World Communications. All rights reserved.
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