Securing Your Wireless Internet Connection

The widespread use of Wi-Fi Technology is bringing to light many security issues that may have gone unnoticed by the average user. Traditional wired connections have obvious security precautions that most users are accustomed too, but extra measures must often be used when transferring data across a wireless, and sometimes public network. A wireless Internet connection without security can easily give anyone access to your files, email, and even gives others the ability to make changes to your computer.

These types of security problems will probably have little impact on most users. Occasionally surfing the web at a coffee shop or having a wireless adapter set up on a printer will likely not bring down the house. To a business holes in security can cost time, money, and could possibly be a legal violation. A badly secured Wireless Internet connection is an open door for hackers to use the technology to cause general mischief or to even commit crimes. The most common methods currently in use to secure a Wi-Fi connection are SSIDs, Wi-Fi Protected Access, and WEP.

SSID (Service Set Identifiers)

Every data packet sent over a Wi-Fi connection has a specific identifier attached to it. This identifier, or SSID, can recognize particular wireless networks and everyone accessing a particular network must have the correct Service Set Identifier. From a security standpoint SSID alone offer almost no protection, but it does give a network a specific name making is clear what network a user in connected too.

Knowing where you are connected too has become increasingly important due in part to a wireless internet attack called The Evil Twin. While this may sound like something Dr. Evil would use, it’s a common hacker technique. The way it works is a hacker takes in a mobile wireless access point, usually set up on a laptop, and then enters a public area where an access point already exists. If no SSID is set up, then someone may actually log on to the hacker’s computer giving them access to all data sent and received. This is a great way to get access to usernames and passwords.

Even with SSID a hacker is going to name their network something confusingly similar. If you are at your favorite coffee shop and are about to log on, check the names of the networks carefully. Be careful if you see two possible networks with very similar spelling like these:

• CoffeeHouse
• CofeeeHouse

The hacker is hoping his network shows up first in the list, and that users will log on so quickly they won’t realize what they are doing.

WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access)

WPA was originally designed as an answer to security holes that were becoming apparent in the widely accepted WEP technology. Wi-Fi Protected Access is an attempt to create standards within the wireless security industry, and begin a move towards unifying the market. The Wi-Fi Alliance designed the technology and a scattered market is beginning to see a unified method of security on the horizon.

The two main differentiators between WPA and WEP are key size and the number of packets that actually carry the key. The number of characters in a WPA key is considerably more than a WEP key, and it would taking sifting through many more data packets to actually put a WPA key together.

WEP (Wired Equivalent Protection):

Wired Equivalent Protection uses encryption to protect data as it travels via radio waves from transceivers. This means that when you send your email from your laptop it becomes encrypted, is sent out wirelessly on radio carrier waves, is received by a wireless access point, is then decrypted and sent on to the Internet as any wired connection would. As the name implies this security was designed to provide the same level of security a wired connection would. This is not the case, but the security is usually strong enough for most users.

The reason WEP has never become as secure as a wired network is there is simply no way around the fact that anyone can intercept radio wave and get the data out of them. The level of encryption that the data has will mean the information is meaningless unless the interceptor has the WEP key. The problem here is that all data packets carry a piece of the key and that in time, with enough packets, the key can be produced. This is a lot of trouble to find out where a user has been surfing, but maybe not too much to acquire hundreds of credit card numbers. Again if you are not targeted by a hacker, WEP is surely enough protection. WEP is currently installed on almost all wireless routers available to consumers.

Recognize And Understand Home Networking Components

If you have not decided already,you will soon want to network your two or more computers in your home. You want to be armed to the teach with knowledge of just what it takes to connect your computers to one another.

You first should decide which network is best your you. If your computers are in the same room,the Wireless network should not be considered.The wired by cable network should work just fine.

Computer that may be close to each other but cannot be seen may and have phone jacks close by can easily be networked with the HomePNA Network.While PCs that are far from each other can be connected with the powerline network,assuming wall outlets are nearby.

And when there are computers in different rooms and you want the convenience of moving the systems from room to room,the more expensive Wireless Network is the way to go.After you decide on the type of network that is best for you,knowing what components you’ll need to purchase will be a great help.Let’s take a look at each network and the components needed to get it up and running.

The WIRED ETHERNET NETWORK

If your computers are in the same room,the basic network kit can wire your systems together.Be sure to carefully open any kit or component you purchase and do not damage the box it came in.The purpose for this is to make it easy to return the component if needed.

Basic kits will have instructions and software for the network as seen as two NICs.Better known as Network Interface Cards,these NICs are installed in empty slots in the system unit.The PCI slot is where the card is installed and there are the USB adapters as well.The network will need cabling to connect the computers and the CAT 5 or Category 5 cable is the one to look for.

Ethernet networks come in two speeds,which are 10 and 100mbps or megabits per second.The wired network will also need a Hub or a Switch to direct traffic from each system.If you want fast traffic,and who don’t,you will want to connect a Switch instead of a Hub.If you want all PCs to connect to the Internet,most kits come with Special Bridging Software which links the systems together.

The WIRELESS HOME NETWORK

Wireless networks rely on radio frequency to transmit and receive data.Wireless network equipment will offer you the choice of both wired and wireless connections.

If your computers are in direct line of each other,the IR or Infrared frequency can be used.But most wireless networks now use the Radio Transceiver technology with computers being located just about anywhere.

You will need a Wireless Router to connect each PC to the network.Wireless NIC Cards must be installed in each computer in the network.When you purchase your wireless kit,take note of the indoor range.

As you can see when looking at the wireless Router,you have the option to wire your computers together should something go wrong with any wireless component.Take note of the difference between the wired nic and the wireless nic cards.

The POWERLINE NETWORK

The powerline network uses the electrical wiring in your home to transfer data to and from each computer.Present powerline networks run between 50kbps or Kilobits Per Second and 350kbps.

This network has a drawback in back it will have lots of electrical noise which will cause the network to lose speed.And other PC users can snoop in your computer if they know how.

This network will need a Router for data transfer and nic cards for each system.A Bridge will be needed for access to the internet.These Bridges can be used with your Router.

The PHONELINE NETWORK

The components you will need in the Home Network are close to that of the Wireless network.In most cases,the 10mbps speed network is fast enough for home users.

The computers are connected with a Switch,a gateway,or Router to share Internet access and to send data to each computer through the phone line network.This network is considered the easiest to setup.

Phoneline Network adapters are installed in each PC. The USB or Universal Seriel Bus port connection is the most commonly used adapter for Phoneline networks.To reduce line noise,a Phone Filter may be needed.If you plan to connect a phone and line in one phone jack.you will have to invest in a Line Splitter.Be sure each computer in the network are close to a phone jack.

The Phoneline Network is thought to be less expensive .more dependable and faster when compared with the Powerline network.

In a nutshell,all networks will need some type of adapter inserted in the computer.Each network will need a hub, switch,or router to transfer data.Windows 98,Me,and XP will have the needed software to make everything work together.Adapters and and other hardware will come with device driver software which enables the hardware to talk to the computer.

We have taken a brief look at the hardware needed to network two or more computers.Connecting the hardware was rather simple when we networked our computers using the wireless technology.Learn all you can about PC networking and you will be grateful in having this knowledge should you experience computer problems.

Since we have seen basic network components,its time to see how each component is installed and connected.Then we’re going to see how to move data from one machine to the other and share the internet using broadband with a DSL or a Cable modem.Remember to enjoy learning about your computer by performing as many tasks as you can without causing damage to your system.

Setting Up and Securing Your Wireless Network

There are more and more individuals opting to work from home than ever before. The advantages to this are many including avoiding the morning and evening rush hours, being able to spend time with your kids and significant other, and doing everything on your own time. Though the pitfalls are many, the one that I will be focusing on in this article is that of setting up a secure wireless network for your home based business. Right now somewhere out there, there is someone with a receiver waiting to pick up on an unsuspecting person’s wireless local area network. Their hope is to garner some sensitive information that may lead to identity theft, and stolen proprietary business information.

Most businesses owners are not technically inclined, though they may be power users, in general security settings is not one of the first things they want to mess around with in their day to day operations. This makes most wireless LANs a great target for information predators.

Here are some general guidelines to follow in setting up your wireless network. Though it may vary from vendor to vendor, the gist is more or less the same:

1. Setup the wireless access/router point via a wired client.
2. Always change the factory setting password to something difficult for someone to guess.
3. Enable 128-bit Wired Equivalency Privacy (WEP) encryption on both your access point and network card. From time to time change the WEP key entries. If your hardware does not support a minimal of 128 bit WEP encryption, then it may be time to replace this dinosaur. WEP is only a minimal security precaution, which is better than none at all.
4. Alter the factory default SSID on the access/router point to a convoluted difficult to guess string. Initiate your computer to connect to this configured SSID by default.
5. Setup your access point not to broadcast the SSID if available.
6. Block off anonymous internet requests and pings.
7. P2P Connections should be disabled.
8. Enable MAC filtering.
9. Enable firewall on the network router/access point with demilitarized zone function disabled. Enable client firewalls for each computer in the network.
10. Update router and access point firmware as updates become available.
11. Make sure the physical router is hidden so that a random person can’t reset the settings.
12. Position the physical router near the middle of the establishment as opposed to near windows to prevent others outside from receiving the signals.

These and other settings will collectively help prevent any unwanted intrusions on your private data.