There was a time not long ago when, if you wanted your computer or printer connected to the internet or each other, actual wires had to be threaded throughout your home or office. It was costly, messy and restrictive.
Fast forward to today! We have broken free of those binding wires. We can now access the internet, our printers, other people in our office or home, our smart TV or even our refrigerator through the wonders of wireless networks, more commonly known as Wi-Fi.
But with this freedom comes a higher risk. Just by nature, wired networks are more secure since there must be an actual physical connection. Wi-Fi, on the other hand, can broadcast a signal beyond our walls, out into the world.
Because so much business and personal information flows across these networks, it is imperative that access to your Wi-Fi network be secured. Since most small business owners or homeowners don’t have an IT department, this responsibility usually falls on them.
And guess what? They are usually not IT experts! With that in mind, here are some important tips and information on securing your wireless network.
1. Make sure your wireless router has the Wi-Fi Protected Access Version 2 (WPA2) security option available, and enable it. WPA2 provides the best protection to date. If your wireless router does not have WPA2 capabilities, buy one that does.
2. Use a strong passphrase. A passphrase is like a password but longer and more secure. Think up a random phrase. For example, “I drive 3215 miles to see West Virginia’s mountains!” It’s a nice, long phrase with a good mixture of letters, capitalized letters, characters and numbers.
3. Consider providing guests and visitors separate Wi-Fi access. Never allow people you are unfamiliar with or do not trust access to your private Wi-Fi network. Many of today’s wireless routers have two separate networks with different names and passphrases but require only a single internet connection.
4. Change the name of your wireless router from the default setting. Wi-Fi routers come from the factory with assigned default names such as “administrator.”
5. Make sure you have disabled “Remote Management” features which allow remote access control for technical support or off-site work. Hackers love using this access to your computer.
6. Don’t forget to log out once you set up your router.
7. If you’re on other untrusted networks, such as public hotspots, you’ll need to secure your home or office Wi-Fi connections as well. A virtual private network is your best option. Using a VPN prohibits eavesdroppers on a Wi-Fi hotspot from seeing your internet traffic, capturing your passwords or hijacking any other information. There are free VPNs such as “Hotspot Shield” available, but also consider a paid VPN service if you require better reliability and speeds.
8. Make sure to physically secure access to your Wi-Fi router. In other words, lock it up in a room or cabinet. If that’s not feasible, at least hide it or mount it high, close to the ceiling or even above a dropped ceiling. Anyone that gains physical access can negate all the router security steps above by simply pushing the reset button with a paperclip or sharp pencil.
If you think about it, your internet router is the most important electronic device in your home or office. It connects most of your other devices to each other and, potentially, to the world. So securing your Wi-Fi router from potential hacker attacks will go a long way toward protecting your personal and business data and information.
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.