Having a “loosely secured” wireless network is like leaving the keys in your car’s ignition. Now I am an old guy and grew up on a farm where we always left keys in vehicles because we didn’t want to lose them but that was 50 years ago. We are now talking about a new time and location. Living in the suburbs of the 4th largest city in the country brings many benefits but also presents “exposure”. There are people who earn a living breaking into networks to obtain information like credit card numbers so securing your wireless network is important. We are talking about professionals who have the equipment required (software you could download in 5 minutes if you knew what is required) to quickly gain access, collect information needed and move on to another “customer”. Most of you would be amazed at the software that can be downloaded to accomplish precisely what has been described so far. It is free and easy to use so the best thing you can do is “lock down” your wireless account.
Network security is a very “broad” discussion topic. In this publication, I am going to cover typical home network configurations. Business networks are not a lot more sophisticated than home networks but there are situations where hardware specifically designed for this purpose is installed to ensure security.
The installation which can be most easily secured is a “hard wired”, home system consisting of a commercial router like the ones provided free of charge by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). With installation of a good antivirus program such as AVG, and use of a strong Router access password (we recommend using phrases rather than simply one or two words), a user is essentially “secure”. Hedging on terminology and saying “essentially secure” rather than “secure” is motivated by knowledge of the number of ways any network may be compromised. Perhaps the most common way of “hacking” an account involves installation of Malware on the machine achieve via downloads. In the typical situation involves the user downloading something they way like perhaps a simple utility but unknown to the customer Malware is included and is transparent to the user. The Malware “calls home” by sending the user name and password of the network to the intruder. Number two involves simple “guessing” the user name and password. The vast majority of systems installed by users retain the default user name of Admin and select a password involving the name of a family member or pet, part of the home address and dates like birthdays or a phone number. If someone with significant knowledge of your family, like a coworker, who would enjoy embarrassing his “friend”, wants to gain access there is a very high probability of success. Another way access is obtained easily is the old fashioned way. By simply asking. When a friend visits your home and says “may I connect my phone to your wireless” in most cases individuals involved will respond with “yes”. If you follow that practice, what I am about to tell you can eliminate the exposure you create while trying to do a good deed.
Every piece of hardware on a network has a unique identifier which is not duplicated anywhere or ever reused. The descriptor is called a Mac Address. Essentially all Routers contain the option of using Mac Addresses to “qualify” anyone connecting to a wireless network. When that approach is taken, and a friend asks to have temporary access, you would connect to your router and tell it to allow the Mac Address of the phone to connect. When the visitor leaves, you would return to the Router and remove that Mac Address.
Configuration with Mac Addresses is something that should initially be completed by a Professional but once everything has been properly set up our Technician can provide easy instructions for making changes. Give us a call today and schedule a Service Call to “configure Router to use Mac Addresses before connecting users”. Once completed, the keys will be out of the car ignition and you won’t need to worry about someone “hacking” your system because it will not happen.