What is Wireless Security?

Submitted by ptelesco on Fri, 2010-07-16 08:54

Wireless technology for your computer can be made quite secure, however keep in mind security for your wireless Internet is similar to security for your house…if someone wants to get in, they will find a way. What wireless security features attempt to do is display a locked down secure wireless network to any that might be within range. Similar to a home security system, it basically tells the intruder that if he wants to get onto the network, he’s going to have to work at it and it might be easier to go to your neighbor’s house where there is no security.

Most newer wireless networking devices are pretty much plug and play. That means there’s not much more to setting them up than to plug them into a power supply and running a network cable to your modem or DSL. However if you want to secure the network there are a few things to consider.

All wireless networking devices arrive out of the box with what’s called “factory settings”. A default password, standard IP address and disabled encryption are the norm for most products. Not changing the default password is the first mistake made when installing a wireless network. The default password is something like “Admin” or “Password” and allows access to the wireless networking device. By failing to change this password, anyone with knowledge of how to access the device can do so by putting in the default password. Since most wireless hardware vendors provide updates, drivers and manuals at their sites, even if an attacker doesn’t know the default password he can find out by searching the manufacturer’s website or even by doing a quick search on his favorite search engine such as Google or yahoo. All he’d have to do is put “Linksys WAP54G Password” into a search engine and look through the results to find out what the default password for a Linksys model WAP54G is.

The second big mistake is not enabling encryption. Changing the default password will keep anyone within range of your wireless device from changing your device settings, but it won’t keep them off your network. If you’re running an unsecured network, then anyone within range of your wireless device can access your bandwidth. Don’t mistake this statement with access to your files or folders, although that is a possibility if your computer doesn’t have some kind of firewall protection such as Windows XP SP2. What it means is that anyone can use your connection to access the Internet. So if you just installed a wireless device and your neighbor has a wireless Internet card and is within range of your device, he can access the Internet using your device. How bad is this really? Since he’s just “borrowing” your Internet connection without your permission, it might not be bad at all, or it might be very bad. It really depends on the individual and how they feel about sharing their connection. But it can also be very bad if your neighbor is the kind of person that might download “questionable” material or is the kind of person that opens every joke email they get and doesn’t run virus protection. Also you might notice considerable deterioration of your own connection speed as it’s related to the amount of connections made to your wireless device. All the wireless device does is split up the connection provided to you by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Bandwidth is just like our freeways; there are only so many lanes and the more traffic using those lanes, the slower everything goes. So if your neighbors are sharing your Internet connection via an unsecured wireless device you may notice your connection speed slowly declining. And if your neighbor’s use any kind of file sharing software to download files or music, you may notice significant slowness, as they are not only downloading from the Internet, but also allowing others to download from them, hence the term “File Sharing”. With multiple connections from the Internet attempting to access your neighbor’s files, you may notice severe slowness when trying to connect to or access information on the Internet. And remember, file sharing is illegal and your neighbor is borrowing your connection to do it, therefore if anyone is trying to determine who is sharing files, it will point to you since technically it’s your connection.

Wireless security can be safe, with the proper tools and security techniques in place.