Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

How to secure your wireless network

Welcome to the 2008 version of Tech–for Everyone. I regret to inform you that there are no major revisions or changes in this new version… in fact, it is exactly the same as the 2007 version: my tech tips, advice, and How To’s brought to you six days a week, advertisement-free.

For my first article of 2008, I am going to demonstrate the steps for encrypting the signals transmitted by your home Wireless router. This is a simple process, and once you have completed the steps only the people who know the password you set (namely, you!) can use your Internet connection. Not only will this prevent freeloaders from surfing the Web on your dime (stealing your bandwidth), but because encryption scrambles the data, it will prevent hackers from reading the ‘packets’ your computer transmits (ie, “reading your mail”), and prevent them from easily accessing the computers on your home network.

Encrypting your Wireless signal really is a security “must do” in this day and age, and there is no downside— it will not slow down your browsing, nor cause you to have to enter a password every time you go on the Internet. Once you set it, everything happens automatically and invisibly to you.

Tip of the day: If you have a Wireless router, lock it down with encryption.
The first step in changing settings on your router is to use a browser to log onto its Control Panel. I have published an article, https://techpaul.wordpress.com/2007/11/16/protecting-your-network-use-your-router-for-access-control-repost/ which demonstrates the basic procedure.
(In that post, I demonstrated on the best-selling Linksys WRT 54G, and although there a whole new generation of Wireless routers being sold now, and there other manufacturers than Linksys, the procedure I demonstrate is basically the same on all of them.)

1) Please refer to the prior post, or consult your router’s documentation (or visit the website) to learn the steps to log in to the router’s Control Panel.
baswrless.jpg
This screenshot shows the WRT 54G Control Panel (default: http://192.168.1.1, password “admin” {no quotes}. The prior article tells you how to change these defaults: highly recommended!) and you will note the black Menu bar across the top. Click on the “Wireless” menu option, and you will see the blue sub-menu options change to look like the screenshot.
By default, your router will be set to broadcast its “SSID”. This is basically a “Hey! Here I am!” signal that advertises your router to devices looking to find a “hotspot“. To help us reconnect after we’ve enabled encryption, we’re going to leave this “on”..for now, but as our final step we’re going to come back and turn this off.

2) Click on the “Wireless Security” sub-menu. Here is where we are going to choose our encryption type, and enter our logon passphrase (this passphrase is really a key, used by the encrption algorithm, so the longer your passphrase is, the stronger your encryption will be).
advwrless.jpg
Use the drop-down arrow to choose the encryption type. Now, here is where I could get into a long lecture about the differences between WEP and WPA (Wikipedia has an excellent discussion of Wireless encryption, click here if you’re interested) but I won’t. I will simply tell you to use the best (newest) standard your devices can accept– currently WPA2. If your devices are older, WEP may be the best they can do; and if this is so, I strongly recommend you visit the manufacturer’s website and looking for a firmware upgrade, or consider replacement with a newer device. WEP is simply too obsolete and easily ‘broken’.
Be aware that both devices– the router, and the Wireless adapter on your computer– must be able to use the same encryption type.
It is perfectly okay to accept the defaults for “Algorithm type”.

3) Enter a “algorithm key”. At various places, this “key” will sometimes be referred to as a “passphrase”. Don’t worry about the phrasing– this is what you will need to enter when “joining” the wireless network (“connecting”).
As shown in the screenshot, a long, complex passphrase is best. Use capitals, ‘special’ characters, numbers, and avoid words found in the dictionary. Be sure to write this down, and keep it someplace safe.

4) Save your new Settings. That’s it: your router’s wireless signals are now scrambled by an encryption algorithm, and only those machines which can answer with the proper passphrase will be allowed access.

Now power up your laptop and “Connect to a network” as you normally would (you will have to because your old connection will no longer connect– it’s protected now!)
wirecons.jpg
Your Wireless Networks window will reflect the change of the network’s status, as this screenshot shows, and will now say “Secure network”, or “Protected” (depending on your adapter interface).

Double-click on the your network (or, right-click and choose “Connect”). Now you will be asked to enter your passphrase… enter it EXACTLY. (Again, it may be phrased “key”.) You should now be connected to the Internet just as you always were, but now you’re connected securely. Congratulations!

Now let’s set things so that your logon and connecting is automatic. Return to your Wireless Connections window and right-click on your router’s name (“Paul’s Net” in the screenshot) and select “Properties”.
wprop.jpg
Place a check in the top and the bottom checkboxes, and uncheck the center one. This will make your router the primary connection, and “find” its signal even though we turn off the SSID broadcast as our final step.
You will need to repeat these “connecting steps” for each laptop/device you have that accesses the Web wirelessly.

5) Return to the Basic Wireless Settings page (first screenshot) and turn off the SSID broadcast. That’s it, you’re done.
Sorry, this ran too long to include a free download link today.

Copyright 2007-2008 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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January 1, 2008 - Posted by | advice, computers, encrypting files, hardware, how to, networking, PC, privacy, routers, routers and WAPs, security, tech, Windows | , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. This information was perferct. I was able to do exactly what was needed to secure my network. Thanks.

    Like

    Comment by Sam | August 4, 2008 | Reply


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