While the advice in this article is directed at parents of children who use the Internet via home Wi-Fi connections, the best practices shared here are applicable to anyone who has setup a wireless home network.
There are plenty of Horror Stories of those who stopped by the local electronics store, bought a $60 off the shelf Wireless router, took it home, set it up only to discover their credit card information had been compromised!
Wireless networks transmit data over radio waves, which makes them inherently insecure. I don’t mean to scare you but I do hope to open your eyes and encourage you to review the setup of your home wireless network to help make certain that you and your loved ones surf safely, just as the rest of the Papá Heroes do!
Let’s keep the focus of this discussion at a 50,000 foot level. Some additional, closer to 10,000 foot level resources will be provided at the end of this piece. Here is a basic checklist of items you should be aware of within your home network if you have a Wi-Fi router attached to your home Internet connection:
- Use Encryption! Simply put, apply WEP/WPA/WPA2 security. From left to right, WEP (Wireless Equivalent Privacy), WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) & WPA2 security standards will encrypt the data your transmit over your wireless network. NOTE: The WEP standard is really discouraged nowadays. While some encryption is better than none, it is strongly recommended that you utilize WPA encryption at a minimum and WPA2 is even better!
- Change the default password of your Wireless Router! The bad guys know what the factory pre-set, default passwords are on all brands of Wireless routers. So make certain to change that default password and remove a significant loop-hole from their arsenal!
- Don’t broadcast your SSID! The SSID is the technical term, which refers to the “Name” of your wireless network. You will see this field labeled in the administrative control panel for your wireless router. There is typically a check-box that will allow you to “Hide” the SSID from wireless network “Sniffers.”
- Keep your wireless router hardware’s firmware up to date! … The manufacturers of wireless network routers often update the security features of the router’s internal operational software. And while we’re on the topic, make sure that the computer systems that are connected to your home network, via physical or wireless connections are also regularly updated via automatic and spot manual updates as time permits. This includes:
- Making sure you have an up to date anti-virus,
- Making sure that the firewall is turned on. Routers often have built-in hardware firewalls. Make sure it is turned on as this provides an extra layer of protection.
- Regularly update your Operating System (Windows, MAC etc…) by download the latest security updates when they become available. These updates will fix security holes holes or bugs the Operating System may have, which attackers might use to hack into your system.
This advice really just scratches the surface but this is a good list of simple, best practices that can make your family’s Internet surfing experience safer and richer. During the research I performed for this piece, I found some additional resources you may find useful if you’d care to dig deeper into this subject. I’m including these for your reference as well:
- Password Protect your Wireless / Wi-Fi Router – Focuses on the popular Linksys WRT54G Wireless Router.
- How to Protect Your Family’s PC (PDF Document)
- Help Secure your Wireless Network