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How to make your wireless network more secure

The device that sits at the centre of your wireless network, connects all your computers to the Internet and allows you to share your printers and files across your network is your wireless router. If this isn’t secured correctly neighbours or other passers-by can access your Internet connection and potentially access the files on your computer.

Here are some of the things that you can do to get your network secured correctly:

 Step 1 – Gain access to your routers administration page: Before you can change any settings and make head-way with getting your wireless network secured you need to login to your routers administration page. You can connect to this page via your Internet browser and you don’t need to have an Internet connection to access this page as it’s built in to your router. You need to find your routers ip address to connect to this page. Here are the steps to find your routers ip address:

On windows:

  • Click Start > Run > type ‘cmd’ > Click ‘Enter’
  • Once the Command Prompt window opens, type ‘ipconfig /all’ and hit ‘Enter’
  • Locate the line labeled ‘Gateway’ and make note of the number that follows. It will look similar to ‘192.168.1.1’
  • Open Internet Explorer (or your favorite browser)
  • Enter the Gateway IP Address into the address bar and click ‘Enter

On a MAC:

  • Open your Finder and run ‘Terminal’ inside of Applications > Utilities
  • Once the terminal window opens, type ‘ipconfig -a’ and hit ‘Enter’
  • Locate the line labeled ‘Gateway’ and make note of the number that follows. It will look similar to ‘192.168.1.1’
  • Open Safari (or your favorite browser)
  • Enter the Gateway IP Address into the address bar and click ‘Enter

Step 2 – Change the Service Set Identifier (the network name or “SSID”) from the default to something unique: A default SSID indicates to hackers that the network was set up by a novice and that other options (such as the password) are also left as the default. Use a name you can remember and identify, as the SSID has no influence on the security of your network (not even if you choose not to broadcast it).

Step 3 – Setup wireless encryption: This is one of the most important steps, this acts as a password to stop unauthorised users from connecting to your network, it also encrypts the data as it goes to and from your computer and your wireless router. There are different types of encryption available, I would recommend going for the highest type available which is WPA2. Most wireless devices support WPA2 now but if you have a device that isn’t able to connect you may need to lower the security to WPA.

Step 4 – Change your routers default password: This is the password that is used to login to the routers administration page, this needs to be changed from the default. Anybody who gains access to the router configuration page can disable the security you have set up. If you forget the password, most routers have a hardware reset that will restore all of the settings to factory defaults. The best option is to use a random sequence of the maximum length of characters – you only have to type that once, so it is not a big thing.

Step 5 – Disable remote configuration of the router: If this is enabled someone could program your router remotely from over the Internet without even connecting to your network, this poses a big security risk as if you still have the default username and password they can login to your router allowing them to open up ports (making your computer vulnerable to attack) and change various other settings. The good thing is that routers normally have this disabled by default. Be sure to confirm that it is disabled when you first set up your router and periodically thereafter.

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