Wireless routers are great nowadays because you can just plug them into your modem and yay, you can now connect wirelessly to your router and surf the net. And so can your neighbors. And their moms.
When you buy a router, all its security settings are turned off for the ease of installation. Since the router isn’t able to distinguish your computer from your neighbors’, it becomes an internet party and everyone’s invited.
If you want to prevent people from leeching your internet and snooping around your network and possibly even messing with your router’s settings, take the following steps:
- Enable WPA (recommended) or WEP encryption on your router
To oversimplify, enabling encryption “password-protects” your wireless network. It’s like your router and your computer doing a secret handshake before each transmission. Yes, WEP and WPA can be hacked by moderately knowledgeable geeks. WEP can be hacked in minutes, but to do so is beyond casual Joe who just wants free internet. WPA is well… much stronger… so use WPA. If your router is so old it doesn’t offer WPA encryption, either use WEP (better than nothing) or buy a new router.
Whichever one you use, always use a strong password (random is better) or the encryption becomes more or less useless.
To enable encryption on your router, refer to the manual :oP. You may need to configure the wireless profile on the computers connecting to the router, but in most cases you’ll simply be prompted for the “password” (or key) upon connecting to the network.
Oh ummm… I guess that’s just the key thing for a relatively secure network. There’s a few other things you can try to make your network more secure, but I don’t mention them because they’re mostly crap. They don’t hurt, though. It comes down to this:
- If Joe Shmoe wants to steal your internet, either of the aforementioned encryption methods is enough to keep him out.
- If Joe Shmoe is actually l337 h@x0r, he’ll quickly get through WEP and the other crappy “security measures” most articles suggest.
- It will be quite difficult or near impossible (not worth the effort) to get through WPA that has a strong key (“password”).
If all you do on the internet is read webcomics and blogs, you probably don’t have much to be concerned about, but if you manage any finances, consider using WPA encryption.