Several weeks ago I wrote a column about wireless connections and some of the benefits you can enjoy from setting up a wireless network in your home. I left out wireless security in that column simply because space would not allow its inclusion. Let’s address it now.
Security issues with wireless networks are quite different from Ethernet ones and can be a challenge. The convenience of Wi-Fi is wonderful, but does complicate your security risks. Wireless signals can extend outside your home and be picked up by neighbors or even strangers for less than honorable purposes. As with other IT subjects they are constantly being updated as well, so it pays to keep up with the technology.
Briefly, Wi-Fi security standards have evolved from WEP to WPA to WPA2. It’s not necessary for you to know what these acronyms stand for, just know that WEP is no longer considered safe and that WPA2 is the current and most secure. WPA was a stop on the way between WEP and WPA2. Best practices would suggest that your wireless network should conform to WPA2 standards. If you have equipment that dates back to 2006 or before, it may not be possible to use WPA2 although some older router models for example can be upgraded by installing new firmware. Use the latest standard that is available for your equipment and if only WEP is available, consider buying newer equipment.
When setting up your router and your Wi-Fi network it’s important to use passwords that are not easily broken. Some routers make it easy for you by choosing a name for your network and assigning a secure password to it. I particularly like the way Cisco’s Valet line does this job and also the way they make it easy for you to connect multiple devices. But you say, “I don’t want to have to remember a password like xy45AB92 to connect to my network”. (This is especially tedious when setting up some brands of TV and some wireless printers.) Well, neither do I, but you can allow your devices to remember the password and automatically connect each time you start your device. It may be a little time consuming to get the correct password into your system, but it’s worth the trouble and you won’t have to do it again for a while.
In summary, complete these steps to make your Wi-Fi secure. Check your security type and choose the most recent available with your devices, ideally WPA2. Choose a secure password and don’t share it with just anyone. Include upper and lower case, numbers, alpha characters and symbols; eight or more characters is best.
One last warning, when you take your portable device to a restaurant or other hotspot, you are not secure. Don’t do banking and other private communications from a public Wi-Fi connection.