Top 10 basic wireless security practices

Wireless security is a hot topic these days, and different advice abounds. Here's a short checklist to make sure you have the basics covered:

  1. Use vendor-supplied security -- Since the capabilities of each wireless router/access point/bridge differ from brand to brand, it's best to get the vendor's recommendation on the best security options for their devices
  2. Change the default admin password of your wireless router/access point/bridge -- Once a potential attacker detects a wireless network, this is one of the easiest ways to further compromise it.
  3. Turn down the power -- Some vendor's wireless router/access point/bridge's offer the option of changing the power settings so that your wireless network is not broadcasting its signal farther than you really need it to.
  4. Use Media Access Control (MAC) address filtering and Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) -- MAC address filtering will help restrict access to your home wireless network to only those users you authorize. If WEP is the only security option available on your wireless router/access point/bridge, use a key that is hard to guess and change it periodically.
  5. Consult the vendor about antenna positioning -- Different antennas radiate signal in different patterns. Check your vendor's documentation to verify optimal antenna positioning for your wireless network.
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    Jon Russo is vice president of marketing at iPass Inc.
    Frank Burdette is an associate and senior technical engineer at Booz Allen Hamilton.
    Jon Russo
    Frank Burdette

  7. Change SSID and, if possible, disable SSID broadcast -- Your wireless router/access point/bridge may come with a default SSID already configured. Change it as soon as you set up your wireless network. Also, some vendor's may offer the option of not broadcasting this network identifier.

  8. Keep your wireless router/access point/bridge firmware up to date -- New firmware can help resolve compatibility problems, plug security holes and provide other important fixes. Check the vendor's Web site for these updates.

  9. Use a VPN for working at home -- For enterprise users working at home, always check with your enterprise IT department or help desk for best practices regarding accessing the company network over your wireless home network. Often, virtual private network (VPN) software is required for this purpose.

  10. Keep your antivirus software up to date -- Viruses, worms and Trojans are a continuous threat. Make sure your wireless network is not a haven for these problems.

  11. Use a firewall -- Either a hardware or software firewall can help protect your computer and the rest of your network from attack.

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