Wireless networks provide an extremely convenient way of using the Internet without having to physically plug into a modem. Whether using a private wireless network inside the home, or a hotspot in a public place, there are a few simple steps that you must take to keep your computer and your personal data safe from attack.
Wireless Security at Home
If you use a wireless network at home, you must ensure that you have enabled security for your network. Use a password that is difficult to guess to restrict access to your wireless network. If you leave your wireless network open, you could find that your neighbours are using your Internet connection without your permission. You might notice your connection getting very slow as these uninvited users use up all your bandwidth – or you might not notice that anything is wrong until you get your bill, and find that you are being charged for excess data usage that you weren’t responsible for.
Even if the thought of neighbours using your bandwidth doesn’t bother you too much, you need to be concerned about the sorts of materials they are downloading. If people sharing your network download illegal materials, such as child pornography, the illegal downloads would be traced to your IP address, which could lead to you getting the blame for the activity.
The best way to keep uninvited guests out of your network by using a strong password – one that uses both letters and numbers and is at least 8 digits long. Do not use something obvious like your street address or surname.
Ensure that you turn on encryption on your wireless router or dongle. The strongest form of encryption is WPA2, which prevents hackers from accessing your network or reading data sent over the network. Other encryption options are WEP and WPA.
Wireless Security for Public Hotspots
When using a public hotspot to access the Internet, you need to be aware that your data may be open to being intercepted. It may be possible for other users of the network to access your passwords or private emails that you are sending over the network.
The risk is slightly reduced if you use an encrypted connection. This type of connection is safer because your data is translated into a coded form before being transmitted. To connect to this type of connection, you will have to enter an access key, which will be given to you by an employee at the café or library that owns the network.
Public networks which simply ask you to log in using your email address almost certainly do not use encryption to protect your data. Be very wary of carrying out private activity, such as online banking or sharing sensitive information, on this type of network.
Don’t Be Complacent
Even when you are using a secure wireless network, you should not forget about other security measures. Always use anti-virus software to protect your computer, and avoid downloading and running programs unless they come from a source you know you can trust. By following these basic online security rules, you can help to keep yourself safe while enjoying all that the Internet has to offer.
Daniel Eggleston is a retired network supervisor. He likes to spend his days fishing and sharing his know-how on various websites. Try the speed test for your website, visit the link.