Keeping Your Home Network Safe and Secure


by Barbara J. Feldman on January 7, 2008

With so much talk of identity theft, hackers and scammers it is hard to do anything on your computer without wondering who could possibly be looking over your shoulder. With so much of our business being conducted over the Internet, more is at stake than ever before. It is up to you to do all that is in your power to keep your home network safe and secure. The two most fundamental things that should be done on any computer regardless of whether or not they are wireless is to make sure that anti-virus software and firewalls are installed and in working order. Anti-virus software protects your computer from viruses that are downloaded without your knowledge. These viruses are difficult to detect at first glance and could be missed and allowed to destroy your computer and compromise the information stored on it if the proper anti-virus software were not in place. Firewalls are also a huge factor in protecting your computer as they provide a theoretical shield that protects your information from those who would like to take a peek and use that information for their own gain. In the case of both firewalls and anti-virus software, it is important to regularly update your protection in order to combat the ever evolving abilities of hackers.

As far as safety pertains to your wireless home network, there are some things that you can do to ensure that you remain safe and secure. One of the easiest things to do is to make sure that you change all of the default administrator passwords and usernames once you have succeeded in completing the installation of the wireless connection. Administrator passwords are the passwords that the administrator for the wireless network uses on most if not all of their programs. Failure to change this password to something more unique, means that all a hacker would need to do to access your wireless information is to know the few select administrator passwords that exist and use those passwords to their benefit.

You also want to keep your home network safe and secure by turning on your compatible encryption. Encryption technology makes it possible for messages to be sent through wireless networks in a scrambled form. This way, humans are unable to read it during transit and the likelihood of having your information hijacked mid-transit is greatly diminished. Not all encryption methods are created equal. The two main types available are WPA and WEP. You will want to choose the strongest encryption method that is compatible with your computer settings.

Wireless networks are desirable because of their ease of operation and the convenience of dealing with fewer cords and boundaries at your workspace. However there is a compromise of safety that is made when you decide to go wireless. Wireless signals allow anyone within the access area to tap into your wireless network unless it is password protected. Sometimes this signal only reaches certain parts of your house, other times it can be strong enough to reach a neighbor’s house or a street. You can change the settings to control the reach of your wireless signal to ensure that it cannot be used at least by someone other than resident of your home. Wireless signals are also needed to connect you to the network itself and these types of signals are much more far reaching. Another safety suggestion is to disable the SSID broadcast (a signal sent by the router to broadcast the network name) and make sure that you have not been automatically connected to an open network (this would mean making your wireless network connection available to parties that are within the range of the signal but not necessarily people that you intentionally grant access to).


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