wireless routers

Wireless Routers

Unsecure Wireless Routers - a big problem and a big responsibility !

Wireless Routers

Article first published 16-04-2011
Using a wireless router in your home or, a workplace, as a gateway to your internet connection, is a responsibility that none of us should accept without understanding the full implications of using it without properly configuring its settings.
At this point, I could go on and use technical jargon to explain what I mean and then, wake you up when I have finished, but I'm not going to, because this, like most other technology based issues, is easier explained with an analogy.
You leave the keys in your car and someone steals it. The Police return it intact 24 hours later so, no great harm done ? Maybe, that's why you carelessly left your keys in the car in the first place ? Because, you didn't realise the worse thing that can happen !
Two weeks later, you get a knock at the door from a nice Policeman who presents you with 3 speeding fines and two parking tickets - all issued on the date that your car was stolen ! OK, after a lot of hassle that you don't need, you may not have to pay the fines and penalties, but, will the experience make you 'more' careful not to leave the keys in your car in the future ?
Your wireless router is exactly the same. Leave it unprotected so, that, anyone can use your internet connection to do something that they shouldn't, and if, and when they do, you will suffer the consequences!
Examining the outer packaging of the various wireless router manufacturers confirms, that, along with speed of data transfer and signal strength
(range), 'they' see, 'ease' of set-up and operation, as an important selling point - but, do the 'out-of-box' two-step configuration
routines provide you with adequate protection ?
No they don't. All that they provide is basic protection against novices who may try to get 'free' internet access through your wireless router. They don't offer protection against an attack from a computer expert or, 'professional' who, may want to do something illegal on the internet and use your internet connection (your IP address) to do it.
That's why, when you buy a wireless router for your home, you should buy a router that is only 'just' powerful enough to cover your home. Buy one that is too powerful, that is capable of sending the signal throughout your home and beyond, and all that you are doing is inviting trouble from further a-field. The more people that can see your wireless router's signal, the more chance there is of someone using it to gain access to the internet.
If you don't properly secure your wireless router, what might someone use your internet connection for ?
Well, I could take up many column inches
speculating about this, but using it to download some type of illegal pornography is one of the 'uses' that should focus anyone's attention to the importance of making sure that their wireless router is secure.
As well as the basic WEP and WPA security encryption, nowadays, most modern wireless routers allow users to set up a network using static IP addresses instead of using a DHCP server and dynamically assigned IP addresses, and this is one of the ways that you can add an 'extra' layer of protection to your wireless network.
Another way is to set up your wireless router to use MAC address authentication which restricts access to those devices that have their MAC address in the 'approved' list.
Configuring the wireless router's firewall settings and hiding the wireless router's SSID are further ways of making your wireless network 'more' secure.
Also, don't forget to change the out-of-box user name and password settings to stop anyone from being able to log into your wireless router's configuration settings where they can simply change or amend any of the settings that you have made.
Finally, regularly check that your wireless router has retained it's settings. Power cuts or, fluctuations in power levels can reset your wireless router back to it's original unsecure, factory-default settings. Nowadays, most wireless routers allow users to save a configuration file that can be easily and quickly uploaded to the router to restore any previously saved settings.

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