Wireless Internet connections offer a lot of convenience, especially in your home environment where you have multiple devices which require Internet connectivity. When you have a wireless network installed in your home the tendency is to think that the people nearby also have a wireless connection so why would they want to piggyback on yours?
Although your neighbors may be trustworthy, it is still easy for anyone to access your wireless Internet connection if they are within range of your house. For that matter, they can even park in a car nearby and access your wireless connection and if they are tech savvy enough, they can eavesdrop on your conversations, take control of your PC, and track your activities when you are using the Internet.
If you happen to be paying for data transfer, unauthorized people using your Internet connection can increase your bill and compromise the performance of your wireless connection. For these reasons and more, it is a good idea to block people from accessing your wireless Internet connection. You do not have to be tech savvy to accomplish this and it can provide you with the piece of mind that there is no unauthorized access to your wireless connection.
Password Protect Your Router
When you purchased your wireless router it should have been accompanied by a user’s manual which provided you with instructions for configuration. Although the instructions vary according to the make and model of the router, you are typically provided with an IP address which you enter into the URL field in your browser.
The IP address will lead you to the settings for your router after you enter your username and password. If you left the username and password on default when you first purchased your router you will enter this information to log into your router settings. Once you reach the settings page then you can change the default password to something more secure such as a password that is difficult to guess.
Set the Encryption for Your Wireless Connection
Your wireless router should provide encryption settings for securing your Internet connection. These settings are typically located on the same page we described above for changing the default password.
Depending upon the type of router you have it should offer one or more different types of encryption. If you have an older router your only option for encryption may be WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) and in this case, you would select this option and then enter a password which is difficult for others to guess.
The other two types of encryption are WPA which stands for WiFi Protected Access and WPA2 which is WiFi Protected Access 2. These two types of encryption are more secure and are used with devices which have been manufactured within the last five years. If you have a newer router it will offer these options for securing your wireless network.
Keep Your Router Updated
If you have been using your router for a while make sure you keep it updated with the latest firmware. This helps to prevent vulnerabilities which hackers can exploit to access your wireless Internet connection. To obtain the latest updates it requires you to make periodic visits to the router manufacturer’s website which will tell you if there have been any new updates released.
Configure Your Network for Specific Devices
You can also take additional precautions to secure your wireless network by only allowing specific devices authorized access to the network. This is accomplished by entering a unique identification number for each device in the configuration page for your router and router settings. The unique number is known as a MAC address and applies to mobile devices as well as PCs and other equipment in your household which connects to the wireless network.
Obtaining the unique MAC number requires examining all of the devices in your household and then recording the number so you can enter each device in the router configuration settings page. Depending upon the type of devices you have the procedure for identifying the MAC number varies. For example, if you want to add your mobile phone to the network the MAC number is typically located under Settings in your mobile device. Once you enter the MAC address for each device in the router settings page only those devices are allowed access to your home wireless network.
Change the Name of the Network
You can also discourage unauthorized access to your wireless Internet connection by changing the name of your network to something other than the default name. Although this will not add to the security of your network if you name the network something specific it will accomplish two things: 1) You are always sure you are connecting to the correct wireless network if there are several other networks in the vicinity and, 2) You can discourage others from piggybacking on your network.
For example, most devices will automatically find the nearest wireless networks to allow you to choose which network you want to use. The available wireless networks are listed on your device before you click Connect. If you name your network in the SSID settings for your router something like Conficker worm, this will deter unauthorized users from choosing your wireless connection on their device.
Use Monitoring Software
There is a variety of wireless network monitoring software available which will tell you whether or not an unauthorized user is accessing your network connection. The software is capable of identifying MAC addresses for devices and will also indicate any DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) requests.
Also, depending upon the type of router you have you can sometimes see DHCP requests by logging into your router settings page which we described earlier in this article and then looking for your local network to view the settings. It should list all of the devices which have attempted to connect to your network.
Although hackers are very crafty and nothing is one hundred percent foolproof, you can significantly reduce the chances of unauthorized access to your wireless Internet connection by using some of the steps we described here. This will block people from using your wireless Internet connection regardless if they have malicious intentions or not.