How Do I Secure my Home Wireless Network

Asking, "How do I secure my home wireless network?" is a great step toward protecting your personal data. Don't take chances with your home network security, or you could find someone stealing your Web access or, even worse, your personal information. It's essential to configure your home network with strong security to protect your data and your electronic devices.

Dump the Defaults
Ever seen a generic "Linksys" network name when you're searching for wireless networks? Generally, networks that retain the default name also retain the default security features, including the default password and no additional security features. When savvy computer users see an open network with a generic, default name, they know the network is ripe for exploitation. Networks with unique usernames and strong passwords are a much less tempting target, as these represent secure wireless networks.

The first, best thing you can do for your network security is to change your network name. Create a unique name that you'll recognize, but avoid using personal information, such as a name or your address. Next, come up with a strong password. Make the password that you'll remember. Write it down only if you must, and dont' store it anywhere near your computer. A strong password is at least 14 characters long and includes letters, numbers and symbols, if the network allows it.

Choose a Wireless Security Protocol
The wireless security protocol you choose is one of the most important elements of wireless networking security. Newer wireless security protocols tend to be stronger, and take longer for a determined hacker to break and decode. The best network security protocol currently available for home users is WPA2, followed by WPA and WEP, which is the weakest. Selecting the strongest wireless protocol is useless if your other wireless devices don't also support it, so check your wireless devices for compliance when you're choosing a protocol.

Once you've picked a protocol, you must designate a key that your wireless devices can use to connect to your wireless network. Without the key, devices are blocked from the network, which is how this technology prevents unauthorized access. You'll need to type this key into any device that you want on your network, including printers and video game consoles. Like your network password, your key should be at least 14 characters and should contain letters, numbers and symbols for added security.

Use MAC Address Filtering
An additional security step that you can take is to restrict your network to only allow selected MAC addresses to connect. The MAC address is a unique ID number assigned to every network adaptor. Your cable modem has a MAC address, as does your laptop, your video game systems and your wireless network printer. You can typically find the MAC address engraved on the ID tag that also designates model and serial number for your device.

When you restrict your network to only enable selected MAC addresses, any MAC address that isn't recognized by your router is denied when it attempts to access the network. You must manually type the permitted MAC addresses into the designated area in your router's security screen in order to enable any wireless devices to connect.

Run Anti-Intrusion Software with a Firewall
Finally, run good anti-intrusion software on your network computers, and make sure you're using a firewall. Some routers serve as a firewall between your computer and the outside world, but anti-intrusion software or Internet security suites can detect intrusion attempts and provide the last line of defense in protecting your computer from outside threats.

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