Securing Wifi

OK so you've got your shiny new WiFi device plugged in, switched on, and your Broadband is working just fine!

Wonderful, isn't it? Technology?

Yes and No!

Firstly Yes because now you can wander out into the garden with your laptop, browse t'internet, pick up your email, chat on-line (for those who think phones are only for listening to music on, or taking poor quality photographs, or playing dumb games on!)

Secondly No because, out of the box, your shiny new WiFi gadget is probably wide open to the bad guys out there! Not only can you connect, so can any passing tight-wad who fancies a bit of Broadband for free!

Fire up a web browser (Microsoft Internet Explorer if you haven't yet seen the light, or Firefox if you have).

Now type 192.168.1.1 into the address box (go away and look look up what that means if you don't know before doing anything else) then hit the Enter key.

You will be asked for Username and Password - these are often set to admin and admin respectively - secure or what!

Type them in (whatever they are) and hit Enter.

You should be presented with some form of basic settings system for your WiFi doo-dacky (at least I am when I do that!)

See http://linksys.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/linksys.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=4240&lid=7306940387B09 for an example of what I see with my Linksys device.

Browse around to find the Wireless Security Settings, and prepare to start fettling them!

First off change the device settings Password to something other than the usual default (password or admin) and for Petes sake write it down somewhere so you don't loose it! It is possible to reset your WiFi wotsit but its far better to keep your password!

There should be some way of setting your network name. Ex factory it will likely be something boring like Wireless-G or something. The bad guys know the standard names so change it to something only you know. A mix of upper and lower case letters is good.

Next look for the Encryption settings. The factory settings are usually set to off - change it to WPA. You want to encrypt (or code) transmission between your PC and your wifi doobrie otherwise anyone out there can intercept everything you send by wireless - bank account details, username, password - you name it! Not a good idea!

Set a strong WPA password - again a mix of upper and lower case letters and a few numbers is good.

Again - write the durned thing down or you'll have to 'break into' your WiFi box to reset it!

At this point you may well notice your internet connection is severed - that's because your computer can no longer talk to your WiFi box - you've just password protected it! At least it shows it's working!

Now you will have to reset your PC WiFi connection settings.

Look on the task bar (again if you don't know what that is, go away and find out - this isn't an idiots guide to using a PC!) - and look for the WiFi icon. It should be fairly obvious what it is.

Right click it, single left click it, double left click it - do whatever it takes to get a setting box to pop up. By that you can probably tell there are numerous ways of using a PC, often depending on your operating system.

Type in the network name you gave above (you will probably be able to select from a list of networks it's found for you), select the encryption method (WPA), and type in the security password.

Your connection should be remade! This is probably the sort of thing you have to do anyway if you roam around with your PC.

A further change you can usefully make to your WiFi box is to turn off SSID transmission - by default your precious box is sitting there calling out 'hi there, I'm here! My name is ****, come connect with me!' at the top of it's little electronic voice!

Turn it off - you know it's there, no-one else needs to know!

A further enhancement commonly available (if you're paranoid like me!) is to go into the things settings again and allow only connection by specific device addresses. Each WiFi device on the planet has a built-in identifier code.

Your Broadband WiFi thingy can tell the id of every PC that tries to connect. Set your system to only allow your PC to connect - then even if a bad guy gets hold of your network name and password, your WiFi box will refuse to connect them because they ain't you!

And of course, if in doubt dig out the manual and don't be afraid to read it! It's there for a reason!

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