WiFi 101 – Wifi Router 101
Recently, I’ve found some strangeness in my home wireless network. Often the pace would be slower than average, I couldn’t print to my printer, and some of my more sophisticated router settings (for port forwarding, firewall, etc.) would seem to be “lost”
When it turned out, my laptop was connected to my next-door neighbor’s network. When I came to help him out, we found that he could see his neighbor’s network! They were both unable to do any simple wireless protection.
Failing to protect the network may have a variety of negative effects. It’s your network, first. You don’t want to use the bandwidth on freeloaders. You really don’t want them to see your shared files, use your printer, and import dubious or illicit content from your IP address!
So here we go with WiFi 101: security settings.
It stands for Service Set Identifier, but think of it as the name of your network. By default, wireless routers broadcast their network name. Any computer that comes in range can see the network and try to connect. Step 1 to protect your network? Avoid broadcasting the SSID! Log in to the router (exact steps vary from router to router, but you will typically do this by browsing http://192.168.0.1 or http://192.168.1.1, and entering username and password: try ‘admin’ with both).
Look for the “Wireless SSID broadcast” checkbox or radio button and disable it. This ensures that only machines that already know the name of the network will locate the network.
While we’re here, update your existing router password and username to one you can recall. You can do this on most Linksys routers by following the ‘Administrative’ connection.
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Wired Equivalent Privacy: this is a security scheme intended to protect traffic between your wireless device and your router. Using it now! WEP operates by creating a series of keys (passwords) based on a seed sentence. 64-bit or 128-bit keys may be produced. Write down the keys, since your laptop would need them to speak to the router when WEP is allowed.
Each Ethernet card has a unique number called the “MAC (Media Access Control) address” Think of this as a wireless serial number for your network card. On Windows computers, you can see your MAC address if you go to the command prompt (DOS window) and enter ipconfig/all. Look for “Physical Address” a sequence of 2-digit numbers divided by a dash or a colon. Careful, man! You may have two, one for your built-in network phone, and the other for your wireless card.
Routers can only be programmed to connect to unique MAC addresses. I propose that you do this as well. And if anyone finds your SSID and WEP keys (you write them on a sticky and put them on your monitor) the router will reject them because they’re not “on the list”
Once the router has been setup
- Disable SSID broadcast
- Use WEP encryption
- Use MAC filtering
It’s time to configure the computers and wireless gadgets to view the router.
You will use the “Wireless Network Setup wizard” in the control panel for Windows computers. You’ll type the name of the SSID, the WEP key, and so on.
WiFi is certainly handy, but don’t forget protection! Secure your network and yourself by configuring the security settings of your router.