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PC Security Guide - Protection from Viruses, Attacks and Spyware

By: Patrick Tilsen | Guides | Posted: Sep 15, 2005 4:00 am

Wireless Network Security


Wireless networking has been growing more and more popular lately because it can greatly ease the job of networking and makes laptops more portable. However, wireless networking presents a major security risk that people should be aware of and try to fix.


Use a router for improved security - How much?


NetGear DG834G Wireless Router


In this section, I'll explain some thing you can do to help make your wireless network more secure.


- Wired Equivalent Privacy


Wired Equivalent Privacy, or WEP, is probably the most commonly used form of security for wireless networks. It provides encryption that prevents people from logging onto your wireless network without the proper authority. However, a WEP key can be cracked. This doesn't mean they're useless, however. If your wireless hardware doesn't support WPA, WEP is better than nothing. To use a WEP key, simply go into your router's/access point's setup page (which varies based on your router/AP; see your router's manual) and set one up. Then, go to each wireless device and set them to automatically log on using the WEP key.


I'm making this sound simpler than it is because I can't give in-depth directions without knowing everyone's specific hardware.



- Wireless Protected Access


WPA is similar to WEP in that it's encryption that will help keep your wireless network free of intruders. However, cracking a WPA key requires more skill and often more time. No attacker will bother to crack a home network using WPA, because it's simply not worth the effort. Setting up WPA is similar to setting up WEP; if you can't figure it out on your own with the help of your router or access point's documentation you'll need to get help in the forums.


- Media Access Control (MAC) Address Filtering


One of the best security precautions you can take, regardless of what hardware you have, is MAC address filtering. This will prevent computers that don't have a certain unique sort of I.D. in their wireless devices from connecting to your router. A MAC address can be spoofed, but it's more reliable than WEP and there's rarely a reason not to do it. MAC filtering is a little easier to do than WEP and WPA. You simply go into your router\AP's setup page and find the section for MAC filtering.


You then need to find the MAC address of every wireless device that will be used. To do this, you can look at several things: You can look at the devices themselves; most devices have their MAC printed right on them or you can go to the computers with wireless devices and go to Start > Run > CMD > ipconfig/all. This will tell you the MAC address of every network device on the machine, so make sure you get the wireless one. Finally, you can find the area of the router where it lists computers connected to it (it's usually called "attached devices" or something similar). This will list every attached machine by name and list its MAC address.



Anyway, after you've found the MAC addresses, you simply enter them all into the allowed addresses and enable MAC filtering. The exact pages and buttons vary from device to device, but MAC filtering should be easy enough that you can figure it out on your own.


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