Securing Your Wireless Network As a Fairly Simple Task
An unsecured wireless network is a dangerous thing. It's kind of like leaving the door to your car unlocked, or allowing your neighbor to listen in on your private phone calls. By leaving your wireless network open, any information that you send over that network can potentially be intercepted by malicious individuals. That's something you definitely don't want.
An unsecured wireless network allows anyone within range to use your internet connection, slowing down your personal connection and potentially driving up your internet bill. And if people start using your internet connection for illegal means, you will likely be implicated in any resulting investigation.
Luckily, securing your wireless network is a fairly simple task. We've laid out the steps.
Step 1: Access your Wireless Router.
Wireless routers are controlled through administration pages that can be accessed through your web browser. All you'll need is the IP address of your router. This can often be found by searching the web for information on your specific model of router, or by looking in the manual.
Alternatively, you can find it by locating the default gateway of a computer that is currently connected to the router. If you're using a Windows computer, you'll need to open the command prompt. In Windows 7, opening the command prompt is as simple as clicking the start button and typing "cmd." For Windows XP users, you'll want to click Run, then type "cmd.exe".
Once the command prompt is open, type "ipconfig/all" and locate the default gateway. It should look something like "192.168.1.1".
If you're using a mac, find the router's IP by opening the preferences, navigating to Network and clicking the TCP/IT tab. It's the IP marked "Router."
Once you have your router's IP, type it into your browser's URL bar. You'll be asked to input a user name and password. Most routers use "admin" as both the user name and password by default, though some use "admin" as the username and "password" as the password.
Step 2: Change the Default Admin Username and Password.
You'll want to restrict access to the admin page of your router. If someone were to get into it, they could change the wireless password and even lock you out of the system completely.
Most wireless routers allow you to change their admin login information by navigating to the System section of the page. See our tips for creating strong passwords for help with making your admin page as secure as possible.
Step 3: Change the SSID.
Your router's SSID (which stands for Service Set Identifier, but is more commonly known as the name of your wireless network) should be personalized. A router's default SSID can attract unwanted attention from malicious individuals because it looks like the router has never been configured. You don't want this kind of attention.
Change the SSID in the Wireless section of the admin page. Call it something you can remember, and remember that your neighbors will be able to see the name.
Step 4: Lock Your Wireless Network.
Navigate to the Wireless Security (or Wireless Setup, depending on the brand of your router) section of your router's admin page.
There are a number of different security options available for wireless routers. For most users, WPA/WPA2-Personal is the best choice. Do not secure your wireless network with WEP. WEP is an older security protocol and it is very venerable to attack.
Set both the version and encryption methods to their automatic settings. Then set a password that is both easy to remember and complex enough to be hard to guess.
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