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Internet Service Providers in My Area Make it Easy to Enjoy Secure Wireless Networks

Many internet service providers in my area allow you to purchase a router in order to set up a wireless network right inside your home.  This makes it easy for several people in your home to enjoy internet access, share printers, and more.  Oftentimes, many providers will even throw in a wireless router for free if you sign up online for certain plans.

With the expanding availability of dedicated bandwidth access from DSL providers by zip code, as well as cable and fiber optics broadband connections, these wireless networks have always-on capability for anyone within range of the signal.

There is a downside to this convenience, however.  Many people have been able to obtain internet access from someone’s unsecured wireless home network just by simply driving around until they hit pay dirt.  Most of the time, they simply wanted to surf the web or perhaps send an email off to someone.  But there are criminals who look for these unsecured systems in order to try and hack into personal accounts such as bank accounts, or to obtain other sensitive information from an unsuspecting person.  Even tech-savvy youngsters have targeted their peers by hacking into other’s email accounts and sending a libelous email to someone else.

Internet crime has cost more than $266 million in financial loss, according to the “Computer Crime and Security Survey” by the Computer Security Institute.  The questions is not if, but when, someone will try to compromise your home network.  Here’s how to fix the problem!

Set Up Your First Line of Defense – Encryption

    • Encryption is a must – but you have to turn it on when you set your wireless router up.  This will leave you completely vulnerable.
    • To enable the router’s encryption, you’ll need to find out the strongest form of encryption your network will support.  Older routers use Wireless Encryption Protocol, which is less secure than more current protocols available, including Wireless Protected Access and WPA2.
    • You cannot mix WEP with WPA, so you’ll have to use the same form on all of your wireless-enabled devices within your home.
    • Unlike WEP which is a static key, WPA’s keys change dynamically, making it nearly impossible for hackers to get into your network.  You may want to consider an upgrade if you’re still using WEP.
    • Change the default network SSID name and password on your router – makes it much more difficult for a hacker to get in.  Criminals use a public database of default user names and passwords of wireless routers, modems, and other networking equipment.  They also use free WiFi scanning tools to locate all available wireless networks in a given area.
    • Set up software firewalls on individual computers in your network.  Don’t count on your router’s firewall to protect you.  Without encryption and additional protective measures, anyone with a bit of savvy can view your WiFi traffic.

    Don’t Forget Public Hotspots When Considering Security

    • Public hotspots in most cases do not have any encryption.  That means that anyone with the right tools and know-how can view your internet habits at a hotspot unless you take specific protective action.
    • Make sure you only access a public hotspot at a legitimate place of business.  Criminals who are intent on stealing your sensitive information often set up pirate routers to capture logins and other private data.
    • Make sure your software firewall is turned on, and disable Windows’ file-sharing feature.  This can be checked in Control Panel, along with options for setting up parental controls.
    • Consider using a paid Virtual Private Network service, which creates a secure tunnel for your encrypted data to flow.  The services available are inexpensive and simple to use.