PDQ Library:  Wireless Routers

There are serious security issues when using wireless routers to share your Internet connection throughout your home. This type of hardward can broadcast outside your home. In other words, other people can use your Internet service or even access your computer unless you use some security options. (I know someone whose Internet "usage" suddenly triggered an extra $80 - by paying a technician to set up security on their router they saved money!)

Most wireless routers are shipped with security measures turned off and use standard settings that are easily known for each manufacturer. For example, Linksys routers arrive with the default SSID setting "linksys".

Unless you manually turn on the router's security protocols and change the default settings, your home network could be compromised by a nearby stranger! It is not difficult to set up a secure wireless network if you know which settings to change.

As an example, "Linksys" routers out of the box have their default identifier or SSID set to "Linksys" and are set to "broadcast", making your router visible to all other networks within range. Simply change the SSID to a word that is unique, then turn the broadcast setting off to make it very difficult for someone driving by to detect your home network. Then set up the router using the best encryption available. The older encryption standard is known as WEP. Use the newer WPA encryption if it's available. Turn on your router's firewall if that is an option. Then set a password on your router to protect your router's settings, and specifying the exact computers you want to allow access. (Right-click on "My Computer" and select "Computer Name" tab.)

The Tourbus guy 'Bob' wrote Do you need a Firewall? He's been educating people about the Internet for many year. ".. If you have a high speed Internet connectione, and you have a router between your DSL/cable modem and your computer, most likely you already have a hardware-based firewall, and that's all you need..."
Computer techs rarely use software firewalls (e.g. Windows Firewall, Zonealarm, Norton Firewall). However, if you have teenagers using the computer, or your laptop is used away from home, then a software firewall may be your last line of defense. You decide!

As with any new technology, there are new problems. Some day soon, the security setup on wireless routers will be made easier. Until then, take the time to read the manual that came with your router, and follow the instructions for setting the SSID, password and encryption. Happy surfing!

For problems with Linksys routers, try Linksys Network Tools (requires Internet Explorer 5+). "NetCheck" checks your Linksys equipment on the web for problems and helps you fix them, including installing updates or upgrades. You may need to adjust your Internet security settings to allow www.linksys.com to run these scripts and install ActiveX controls.

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