Protect Yourself From Wi-Fi Hackers

Protect Yourself From Wi-Fi Hackers

Wireless technology has changed the way we communicate. In business, we use Wi-Fi frequently to stay in touch and keep us up to date with what’s happening around us. But this 21st century revolution also poses a serious threat – to our wallets and our peace of mind.

With the advancements that wireless usage has made in the past few years, so too have the skills of hackers seeking ways of breaking into our wire-free worlds. Yet a handful of simple safety precautions can largely stop most of these crooks in their tracks. Let’s take a look at the most important things you can do to protect yourself right now:

If you have a device known as a router, enabling multiple computers to wirelessly access each other and the Internet in your business, your system could also be open to an outside hack-attack – even from someone sitting right outside in their car. Although it sounds daunting, to safeguard your network, you need to access some of our router’s settings. This usually involves using software that came with the device or keying in a sequence of numbers in your web browser (e.g. Internet Explorer or Firefox), which will open the settings there. You should find this explained in your router manual; if you don’t have it, go online to the maker’s website and download it from there. Once you’re in, this is what you need to do:

  • Change the network’s default name (technically called the SSID) which is usually something like the name of the maker (e.g. “Linksys”). Hackers can easily guess these.
  • Set a password for the whole network, so every new device that connects has to be programmed with this. Choose a difficult password with numbers, letters and if possible symbols.
  • Set the built-in security level. This is usually indicated by letters such as WEP, WPA and WPA2. You don’t need to know what they mean; just choose the strongest available (WPA2 is best).
  • Switch off your network identity broadcast. Most networks advertise their existence to anyone within range by broadcasting the name or SSID, but most router settings allow you to switch it off.

If you don’t feel confident doing all of this, find someone to help you, perhaps a technician. To add additional security, you need a firewall on each of your PCs. This is just basically a program that monitors and controls the movement of data in and out of your network. Many routers have firewalls built in, so does Microsoft Windows, but the most secure option is to use an Internet Security suite that includes antivirus and firewall applications. As long as you keep them updated, they’ll stop the hackers. Do an online search for “Internet Security software” and you’ll see what’s out there.

More and more these days, though, we find ourselves using other people’s networks, when we are in meetings or airport. The important thing to know is that these networks are usually totally unprotected – they have to be, so anyone can use them. But that’s like an open door for hackers. Sometimes, for instance in hotels, Wi-Fi networks may require a password that you get from the front desk, but everyone in the building can get that.

The golden rule for using these open networks is, again, to ensure you have up-to-date security software on your device. You can even get software specially developed to protect your files from access during open networking. Also, be wary about keying in any confidential information or downloading anything in an open environment. And SIGN OFF from any password-protected site you’re using when you’re done.

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