Wireless – How to protect yourself

The proliferation of newer technology such as smart phones, i.e., iPhone or a Galaxy and tablets i.e. iPad or the Galaxy Tab have really seen the use of wireless networks skyrocketed, not only privately but in businesses as well. Most devices would show this as Wi-Fi connection.

Wi-Fi or wireless works by the way of radio waves. Just like a walkie talkie or a radio. Your router and your wireless adapter (in your laptop or computer) transmit and receive radio waves back and forth to communicate with each other. An example of this would be if you type “Spring Hill Electronics” in a search engine such as Bing or Google on your laptop, it sends a radio signal to your router and it finds the page out on the internet and transmits that back to you, of course this happens faster than you can read this paragraph.

Let’s first look at your home setting. If you have a wireless network set up at your house, it will typically have an indoor broadcast range between 50 – 300 feet, remember it works off of radio waves. Outside it may broadcast as far as 1,000 ft. There is a long list of variables that affect this number but for the sake of discussion we will use these generalizations as far as the range goes.

So why should you care about any of this? Good question, unless you take precautions, someone can be sitting in a parking lot, or the street or even in the house or apartment next door and have access to your unsecured wireless network. It may seem trifle that someone can “use” your network, but this is what can happen:

  • Malicious users can piggyback on your internet connection and engage in illegal activity that can be traced back to you.
  • Access your files to get credit card numbers, passwords, or banking information.
  • Install spyware or actually take control of your computer.

Any of these would make for a very unhappy day, so we want to avoid them as much as possible.

I am going to explain what you need to do in general terms, simply because there are so many routers out there it would be difficult to show you exactly where and what to do for a specific router. I will provide links to the more commonly used routers at the end of the article.

Here are the two steps you need to take to secure your home wireless network:

  1. You should change the default admin password. Create a strong password that is at least eight characters long with numbers, upper and lower case and a symbol.
  2. Make sure you are using Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) as your security level (if your device supports it).  You will be asked to provide a passphrase. A passphrase is basically a password, but tad longer, therefore more secure.  Depending on which router you have the passphrase can be between 8 and 26 characters in length. Create a strong passphrase. Remember you will have to use this same passphrase on all of your wireless devices so make sure your remember it or write it down and put it someone safe.

What about if you are at the library, coffee café, or the airport and you access the free Wi-Fi hotspot that is available?

That access is unsecured and open to anyone; therefore professional criminals could be canvasing the airwaves to see what is going on. It is not difficult to capture what is being transmitted via your phone (using Wi-Fi mode) or laptop at open/unsecured hotspots.

Be careful what you do in a public place:  Your really should not be doing any of these activities on an open network:

  • On line banking
  • On line shopping
  • Sending email
  • Logging in to work unless you have a VPN

A good rule of thumb, if you don’t want to share what you are doing with a stranger – don’t do it.

If you must log in to a hotspot always indicate that it is a public network if given the option as shown below:


It is very easy to get complacent about security because it is something you setup once and forget, but you should keep vigilant at all times. Don’t become paranoid about it, but just be aware of what you are doing and where you are doing it and be pro-active.

Unfortunately there are some dishonest people trying to disrupt our lives, hopefully by following these simple steps will save you some heartache.

Here are links to some of the major router manufacturers:

D-Link: http://www.dlink.com/support/products/

 Linksys:  http://homesupport.cisco.com/en-us/support/linksys

 Netgear:  http://support.netgear.com/

 Trendnet:  http://www.trendnet.com/support/

Take care,