Wardriving sounds like something from the 1983 movie starring Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy, “War Games”. However, wardriving is neither fictitious nor illegal. This summer a group of 600 wardrivers sniffed out 228,537 wireless networks in 40 states, 17 countries and 4 continents in only 8 days. Wardrivers use laptops, network detectors and GPS locators to search the air for unprotected wireless computer networks. Wardriving itself is not illegal, however accessing the unprotected networks would be.
Bruce McClellan of Maryland Computer Repair, recently spent 45 minutes driving through his neighborhood near Laurel Maryland. He was able to locate over 100 wireless networks. Only about half of them were protected with a unique SSID (a name that identifies a network) and some kind of encryption.
Wi-Fi networks have soared in popularity in recent years. Manufacturers make them very simple to setup. Take a wireless router out of the box, plug it in to your current cable modem or DSL modem and you are ready to go. Unfortunately, without configuring some basic security settings anyone else in the area can also connect to your network.
"People are so excited to get the new technology and get it up and running, they're not even thinking about security," says Brian Grim, marketing director for the Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry group.
How to secure your wireless network.
Wireless networks do not have the same physical security that wired networks have. Wired networks are tied together with cables, wireless networks use radio signals to connect the various components on the network. The wireless signal travels through walls into other rooms of the house, as well as right out through the wall to the street and into your neighbor’s house.
“We recently ran a service call for a client who reported that his wireless connection had stopped working. After investigating the issue it was determined that for the last 2 years he had actually been accessing his neighbors wireless access point and not his own. When his neighbor moved out, the access stopped. It is quite common for someone to inadvertently connect to someone else’s wireless connection, “
So what can you do to protect and secure your wireless network?
1. Change the SSID. The SSID is basically the name of the network. Anyone who wants to hack into your network will know the default names of each brand of wireless router. Use a name that you can easily remember. However don’t use easily identifiable names, such as your last name, business name, address, phone number, or social security number. A combination of numbers, letters, and other characters would be best.
2. Disable SSID Broadcast. If you disable or turn off SSID broadcasting most network scanners won’t see the network.
3. Enable MAC address filtering. This will set up the router to only allow your specific computers to connect to the wireless network.
4. Use Encryption. WEP is basic, has its flaws, but is better than nothing. If you equipment will allow you to use WPA you should use that.
McClellan, from Maryland Computer Repair, says, “Each of these options are pretty standard in all wireless home networking equipment. Follow the instructions that came with the wireless router or wireless network card. Most of these are simply checking the appropriate checkboxes.”
Linksys, Broadcom, NetGear, and D-Link are a few of the major wireless equipment manufactures. Most of them are now beginning to incorporate setup wizards that will make securing the wireless network easier. If you are conerened about security and would rather have a professional do it for you you can contact companies like Maryland Computer Repair or Smart Techs who will set it up for you at a very reasonable cost. Some of the major retailers such as Geeks On Call, CompUsa, and Geek Squad can also do it for you.
You can reach Ever at Smart Techs at 800-301-1917.
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