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The convenience of connecting two or more computer in your home or office has increased, especially with the cost of home or small office kits decreasing. Unfortunately there are people out there who want to use your wireless Internet for free or use it to hack into your computer.

There are now many websites devoted to 'Wardriving', which involves people searching for exposed wireless networks and sharing this information via websites of via their social network.

If you have set up your wireless network straight from the box and have not changed any of the default settings, then there is a huge chance that you are supplying somebody else free Internet access or being hacked into. A wireless network will never be as secure as a cabled network. By following the seven steps below then you will stand a much better chance of protecting your home network.

1. Change Admin Password

The default password for most wireless kits is ADMIN. If you haven't changed this password then change it as soon as you can. It is surprising the amount of wireless networks that are hacked into or accessed by a third party because the ADMIN password is still ADMIN. Especially as manufacturers manuals can be downloaded from the Internet with their admin password.

2. Disable or Change the SSID

The Service Set Identifier [SSID] is a code that wireless hardware sends out to identify itself to other devices. By default the SSID is normally the manufacturer's name. The SSID is only required when devices are first synchronizing with each other, so the best option is to disable the SSID broadcast once your network connection is established.

By disabling SSID broadcast you will make it much harder for an intruder because they will have to start guessing the SSID code. Most wireless gateway devices offer the option to disable SSID broadcast, however some may require a firmware upgrade, and some devices do not offer that option at all.

If you cannot change the SSID or do not want to disable it, then the SSID should be changed to a unique phrase that is hard to guess. Using non-dictionary words as well as numbers and special characters for the new SSID will make it much more for your wireless network to be accessed by hackers.

3. Use 128-bit WEP Encryption

Wireless Equivalent Privacy [WEP] is the security standard and offers the option of either 64 or 128 bit encryption. It also includes additional encryption using the Initialization Vector (IV), which is a series of random bits added in front of a message before it is encrypted. 64-bit encryption is easier to hack into than 128 bit. You may need to update the firmware on your wireless device to be able to use 128-bit encryption.

Bu using encryption, if the wireless device and computer do not contain the encryption key, then no exchange of data will take place. Enabling 128-bit encryption will discourage people not permitted to access your network and make your network more secure. The casual hacker will normally move onto an easier target if they find encryption is enabled.

4. Turn off DHCP

Most wireless devices have Dynamic Host Control Protocol [DHCP] enabled. This allows a new host on your network to introduce itself and request an IP address so it can then connect and use your wireless connection. All very convenient for a legitimate user, but for an trespasser onto your wireless network, that's like putting a 'come steal from me sign' outside your open and unlocked front door.

While it may be a pin to the legitimate user to your wireless network, it's a necessary one due to the amount of damage that can be done if left turned on. By using static IP addresses you will create another hurdle for the unwanted prowler wanting to steal your bandwidth and probably more.

5. Enable MAC Address Filtering

Each computer network adaptor has a unique address built in called the MAC address. Most wireless devices allow MAC address filtering. By creating a MAC address list of permitted network adaptors [that are attached to a computer], you are creating a guest-list so to speak. If a computer with a MAC address on the list, they will not be permitted to access the wireless network.

Mac addresses can be spoofed by a very technical minded knowledgeable individual, however by using MAC address filtering you will deter all but the most determined hacker.

If you are unsure about how to proceed with any of the above please read the manual that came with your wireless hardware. There normally is a wizard or step-by-step walk through that will help you.

I hope the five above tips will come in handy and enable you to use your wireless network without the threat of an unwanted intruder.

John French has been breaking, repairing and building computers for over 15 years. He has expertise in computer security and maintaining a healthy computer. He is in constant battle with computer infections including spyware, viruses and malware.
For more computer tips and advice please visit http://www.john-french.net

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