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How to Secure a Wireless Network: Best Practices & Measures

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby

Kaitlin has a BA in political science and extensive experience working in the business world as Director of Marketing and Business Development at a financial advice firm.

Keeping your information safe starts with keeping a safe wireless network. In this lesson, we look at the best measures to keep WiFi networks secure, from simply encrypting data to restricting device access.

Why Secure a Wireless Network?

Earlier today, Sarah was banking online next to her garden, looking at some accounts while more than thirty feet from the nearest wired internet point. Why is this important? Simple - if Sarah does not have a secured wireless network, then someone snooping around her network could get all sorts of information about Sarah or her finances. Secured wireless networks are an essential part of how to prevent data breaches and keep your information secure. From your own personal bank account information to your grandfather's secret fertilizer blend, there are plenty of ways people use a wireless connection. In this lesson, we'll look at some critical steps to secure a network as well as some more advanced steps to consider keeping your network extra secure.

Encryption

There are a few basic steps that everyone should do to help keep a network secure. First, make sure your wireless network is encrypted. Think of encryption as sending all your information in code. You've got a number of options for encryption, but you'll often hear a number of acronyms being thrown around. WEP, or Wired Equivalent Privacy, is the oldest still in use, but it is also weak. Unless you are only using older devices, it is best to try something newer, like WPA2 (Wireless Protected Access Version 2). The ability to change encryption standards can be found on the router's settings page. Please consult accompanying documentation for further instructions.

Network Names and Passwords

Just because your information is now encrypted does not make it safe. You also will want to prevent people from gaining access to the network directly. To do this, take a look at your network names and passwords. Does your wireless network name have the brand of the router in it? If so, you may want to change it. The reason is simple - people can look up the router name and find out enough information to launch a brute force attack using default passwords for that browser. By changing your network name, you can reduce that threat.

Also, it should go without saying at this point, but please change your passwords from the default. Longer is better, with plenty of letters, numbers, mixed cases, and special characters.

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