Wireless Broadband Routers for the home are increasing in popularity. Whether connected to a cablemodem, a DSL modem or our own network, people are discovering the freedom of wireless access to their Internet connection within their homes. Popular brand names for Wi-Fi routers are D-Link, Linksys, Netgear, Cisco and others. With this freedom, however, comes responsibility. If you connect your Wi-Fi Router to your home Internet connection without first taking measures to secure it, then you are leaving your home network wide open to intruders. That can be bad. That can be very, very bad. An unsecured Wi-Fi Wireless home network allows anyone with a laptop and a wireless card access to connect to your home network. Once connected, a person can be 1,000 feet or farther down the street from your house and use your Internet connection, or worse - hack into your home computers and steal your information. Even if an intruder is just using your Internet connection, it can leave you exposed in ways you might not be aware of. Besides stealing your bandwidth, you would have no idea whether the person was conducting illegal activity through your Internet connection. Examples of illegal activity would be Virus Distribution, Spamming, Child-Pornography, Phishing and Data Theft, among many others. These activities could then be traced back to your home connection, which could potentially create an embarrassing situation with the authorities for you. You can't afford to leave your Wi-Fi Router unsecured!!
The specific steps to change configuration options will vary between the different models of Wi-Fi routers out there, so please refer to the manual for your specific brand. It can usually be found on the CD that came with your unit. You can use your web browser to log into and configure the unit so it's not as hard as you might think. At a minimum, you should accomplish the following steps:
Do not use an obvious password and try to use letters, numbers and punctuation characters whenever possible.
This is the wireless system identifier and you should change it from the default to something only you will know. Do not use your street address, family name or any other name that might identify your location to a potential snooper.
By default, your wireless router will advertise its presence by broadcasting its SSID (System Identifier) across the airwaves. By disabling this function, you are telling your wireless router to keep quiet.
Look for the configuration page that allows you to enable the encryption for your wireless router. You will typically have, at a minimum, WEP encryption available. Newer units have additional encryption options and can often do it automatically. For setting encryption manually, you will have to also enter the encryption key for each computer that you would like to have access to the system. This can sometimes be the most confusing part, but it is well worth the effort.
A MAC (Media Access Control) address must be unique to each wireless card, although some wireless cards allow you to change it to anything you want. The MAC address has the following format (example 00:40:96:A3:49:0F). When enabling MAC address filtering, you are telling your Wi-Fi router to NOT ALLOW anyone access to your wireless network except for those specific MAC addresses that you've entered into the filter table.