Make your wireless network really secure
Securing your network beyond the password level seems like a chore. That's understandable, but with so many wireless devices in the hands of other people just feet from your property, you need to go a little further to ensure your privacy is kept intact.
We're going to guide you through the essential steps you should take to improve the security of your home wireless network.
At the core of most Wi-Fi home networks is a router, which sends data between your wireless devices and the internet. To set up your router, you must access the administration panel through a web browser. This is where you enter your network address and account information.
The admin panel is protected with a login screen, which requires a username and password, but as you'll see, that's just the first stage in protecting your network.
1. Wi-Fi protected setup
If you're updating your router, your new device will follow either the 802.11n or 802.11ac specification, and will almost certainly come with WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup).
This is usually a physical button on the router that you press to lock the device securely while you set it up. It will let you bypass any password setup until you're securely logged into the admin panel.
2. Update your router firmware
Older routers can develop security issues as you attach new devices to your network. Check your router manufacturer's site for a firmware update.
This will ensure compatibility with the latest devices and will refresh your router. Firmware updates usually involve downloading a file from the website and uploading it to your router via the firmware section of your router's admin panel.
3. Change your password regularly
If your router is a few years old, firmware updates might be the only way to add better security features, but when you reboot the device afterwards, you'll have to configure its security options again.
We recommend using WPA-PSK or WPA2 at the very least, and you should choose a new password that includes both letters and numbers, making it difficult to guess.
4. Switch off SSID
By default, routers broadcast their ID to nearby wireless devices, but it's easy to stop this so snoopers can't detect your network.
In your router's admin panel you should find an option to stop broadcasting the SSID (service set identifier). To connect your own devices, you'll need to enter both the name and password; it won't appear on the list of available networks.
5. Address reservations
If you give each device on your network a static IP address, your connections will not only be faster and more reliable, but also more secure because you can easily see which devices are connecting to your network.
Devices you don't recognise will be given IPs that are not in your list of reserved ones.
6. MAC filtering
Stop unrecognised devices from gaining access by creating a list of MAC (Media Access Control) addresses for your devices. Only allow these to connect.
Look for an address filtering option in your router admin panel and enter the MAC address for each device. To find the MAC address, type getmac in Command Prompt for Windows PCs. Check the manufacturer's site for other devices.
7. Don't auto-connect to hotspots
Connecting to open Wi-Fi networks exposes your PC to security risks. To disable automatic connections to open Wi-Fi networks, click 'Control Panel > Network and Sharing Center > Manage Wireless Networks' (in the left pane) and right-click the one you want to change.
Click 'Properties > Connection' and uncheck 'Connect automatically when this network is in range'.
8. Disable wireless administration
If your router has the option, change the setting that allows router administration through a wireless connection to 'off'. You now need to connect with a wired connection (LAN) to get to the admin panel, essentially preventing wireless hacking.
You have now completed the core tweaks to protect your network, but check the manufacturer's instructions for other ways to stay secure.
- Enjoyed this article? Discover how to get the most from your PC and new things to do in Windows Help & Advice. Take advantage of an exclusive offer in our sampler today.