Secure your wireless network
Whilst Google is making headlines again for capturing personal data from unsecured wireless networks, can you be sure that your own wireless network is secure? Most wireless routers, including those supplied by your Internet Service Provider (ISP), offer security protocols, such as WPA or WEP encryption. Some ISPs have friendly installation tools that help you to configure your wireless security. For most users, wireless security is switched off by default and leaves a high number of wireless networks unsecured.
Like anything, having no security makes everything simple and takes away any complications. Wireless networking can still be a bit of a headache, so making life simple makes sense. So, why bother turning on wireless security? If your wireless network is left unsecure, anyone can connect to it that has range of your router’s wireless signal (Wi-Fi). This can be with their Wi-Fi-enabled computer, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. A lot of genuine people might connect to your Wi-Fi for innocent reasons, whilst they have no Internet access of their own, for instance, a passer-by checking his e-mails from his car. On the other hand, if someone connected to your Wi-Fi to access illegal material, like pirated downloads or child pornography, the police could trace the Internet connection back to your wireless network and proving someone else had used your Wi-Fi could be difficult.
However, unless you don’t mind the thought of this, wireless security doesn’t have to be complicated and takes only a few steps to set up. You can still allow your visiting friends and family to connect to your secure wireless network. On the next page, I’ll discuss how to access your router’s configuration settings to get started.
Access your router’s configuration settings
First, you need to access your wireless router’s configuration page. For a lot of routers, the configuration page can be found by opening your web browser and typing in the router’s IP address, like, http://192.168.0.1/. If this doesn’t work for you, your router might have a different IP address. You might also be asked to login to your router’s configuration page.
To find your router’s IP address:
- Open the Start menu and choose Run (or press Windows key + R).
- Type control netconnections and click OK.
- Right-click on your wireless network connection and choose Status.
- Click the Details button.
- Look for IPv4 Default Gateway and make a note of the entry beside this.
- Open your web browser and type the web address as http:// followed by the default gateway number.
If your router was supplied by your ISP, the username and password might be printed on the side or bottom of the actual router. Otherwise, check if your router was supplied with any supporting documents that might contain this information. You can try entering the username admin and leave the password blank, as this also works as a default login for a lot of routers. If you can’t access the configuration, leave a comment below with your router’s make and model number and I’ll try and locate the manufacturer’s default login settings for you, or you might have to contact your ISP for this information if they’ve changed it.
Once you’ve accessed your router’s settings page, look for an option from the menu, like Security, or Wireless Encryption. Different routers, have different menus and will use slight variations of the description. When you find the right option, you should be taken to a different page where you’re asked to choose a security mode, like WPA or WEP, similar to below.
There’s various options you’ll be asked to configure but don’t worry, on the next page, I’ll take you through the most common options and how to configure them.
Secure your wireless network
Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) are two wireless security protocols that you can secure your network with. WPA offers the strongest type of encryption and is the recommended mode that you should use. However, wireless security can be a bit trial and error, depending on the various wireless devices within your home and their capabilities.
Choose these recommended settings, or the nearest description to them depending on your router:
- Select the security mode as: WPA / WPA2 – Personal (PSK)
- Set the authentication mode as: WPA2 – PSK
- Choose the encryption technique: AES
You’ve now chosen to secure your wireless network using the recommended security protocol for Wi-Fi. PSK stands for Pre-Shared Key and you will have to type a phrase that behaves similar to a password. Each wireless computer or smartphone will have to be provided with the same PSK to be allowed access to your network. The PSK you choose has to be between 8-63 characters and can include letters, numbers, symbols and spaces.
To decide a strong PSK, consider a lyric from a song you like, or a mis-spelt variation of a phrase you use. For instance, Twinkle tw1nk13 liTTle $t4R. This makes your PSK easy to remember, difficult to guess and yet provides strong encryption to the data you send across your network.
Once you’ve decided on your PSK, type it in and press the save or apply button. At this point, your router will make the necessary changes and restart itself. Unless you are connected to your router by an Ethernet wire, any wireless connections will be disconnected. We’ll configure your computer to access your secure wireless network on the next page.
Connecting to your secure wireless network
You should be able to see a list of available wireless networks within your range by clicking the wireless network icon from the Windows taskbar, located near the system clock.
- Choose your wireless network’s name (SSID) and click Connect.
- In the Type the network security key box, type your PSK, exactly as you typed it earlier.
- Click OK.
After a moment, your computer will connect to your wireless network. If you’re asked to choose a network profile, choose Home. You can now repeat this procedure on each computer within your home that you want to connect to the wireless network. If you have a smartphone, you can provide the PSK exactly as above to connect your phone to your home network.
If you run into any problems…
Connect your PC to your wireless router with an Ethernet cable and access your router’s configuration page again. Make sure you have entered the PSK correctly and try again. If you still run in to problems, try choosing WEP instead of WPA as the security mode.
If you still have trouble setting up wireless security, contact Berserk Computers or leave a comment below.