7/13/2008
07:18 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary

Securing Your Wireless Internet Connection (You Know You Should)

Well, it's not really breaking news, security firm Kaspersky Lab is pointing out the obvious: that most home and small business wireless networks run at a low, or no, level of security. Kaspersky Lab also listed a handful of steps that could be taken to enhance your wireless security. And while it's all good advice, it left out one of the most important.



Well, it's not really breaking news, security firm Kaspersky Lab is pointing out the obvious: that most home and small business wireless networks run at a low, or no, level of security. Kaspersky Lab also listed a handful of steps that could be taken to enhance your wireless security. And while it's all good advice, it left out one of the most important.According to the results of the Kaspersky Lab Wireless Internet Access Survey, while 57% of U.K. homes are wirelessly enabled, only 35% of the people they surveyed have taken reasonable precautions to lock down their router.

Here are the five items Kaspersky Lab listed, and they're all wise moves, especially if your wireless router is in an urban area.

1. Change the administrator password for the wireless router. Just 19% of respondents had taken this basic precaution, despite the ease with which a hacker is able to find out the manufacturer's default password and use this to access the wireless network.

2. Avoid using a password that can be guessed easily.

3. Enable encryption: WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) encryption is best, if the device supports it. If not, WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) should be used. The survey revealed that 11% had the preferred WPA, 18% had WEP, only 6% had WPA2, and 22% did not know what encryption setting they had.

4. Switch off SSID (Service Set Identifier) broadcasting. This prevents the wireless device announcing its presence to the world. Only 4% of respondents to the survey had SSID switched off.

5. Change the default SSID name of the device. It's easy for a hacker to find out the manufacturer's default name and use this to locate your wireless network. Avoid using a name that can be guessed easily: follow the guidelines provided in the section below on choosing a password.

Sure, it's just plain stupid having your router broadcast "name of manufacturer here" with a username of "admin" and the factory password. You may as well leave your front door open. But Kaspersky Lab failed to list using Network Address Translation, or NAT for short, to protect all of your devices that use your wireless connection. All you need to do is make sure you have a NAT-capable router, and set it up.

Basically, when using NAT, from the Internet it appears that only one device is accessing the Internet, and it also goes a long way to making sure a lot of different types of malware don't find their way on your system. For a good explanation on NAT, I recommend reading Steve Gibson's excellent write-up.

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