Secure your wireless SOHO network

Most wireless base stations, gateways, or routers provide built-in security features listed here which can protect your network from the most common wireless security risks if they are implemented correctly. These steps are provided as general guidelines - for detailed help, please contact your hardware vendor. See the bottom of this page for links to some common wireless networking vendors.

1. Download the latest firmware for your device.
2. Change the administrator password.
3. Specify a unique network name (SSID) and turn off SSID Broadcasting.
4. Enable WEP.
5. Work behind a firewall.

Download the latest firmware for your device
Firmware is software that's embedded in a hardware device - in this case, your wireless router. The firmware that comes with your wireless router or wireless access point may be out of date. Download the latest firmware to ensure the best security and performance.

As security vulnerabilities are discovered, patches to stop them are developed. These patches are often included in firmware updates. If you're using the default firmware that came with your wireless router, there could be several known security holes that could allow someone to hijack your Internet connection, view the files on each of your networked computers and even steal passwords or credit card numbers.

Most of today's wireless routers allow for firmware updates, and the process is quite simple. Check the web site for your wireless device manufacturer for instructions on obtaining the latest firmware and how to install it. The Linksys support site can be found here and the Netgear support site can be found here.

Change the administrator password
Your wireless router's default password should be changed immediately. All wireless routers are shipped with the same administrator user name and password. Changing the user name and password is not only the most important change, it is the easiest. In your wireless router's configuration page, look for a link or setting titled "Admin." If you have any trouble changing this setting, check your wireless router's user guide.

Specify a unique network name (SSID) and turn off SSID Broadcasting
Your wireless router comes with a default SSID (Wireless network name), and one of the first things you should do is change that SSID. By having a non-default SSID, you're making it harder for unauthorized connections to your network. By allowing your SSID to broadcast, you make it easy to add additional devices to your wireless network. However, you also make it easy for anyone with a wireless device to gain access to your network. Leaving broadcasting on is a bit like leaving your car keys in the ignition while you run into the store - you're asking for trouble.

When you turn SSID broadcasting off, your wireless devices will have to be configured with the exact SSID that you have specified in your wireless router.

Enable WEP
Wired Equivalent Protocol (WEP) is a wireless security protocol that encodes or encrypts all network data before it is transmitted using a WEP key. Usually, you can allow your setup program to assign your network a WEP key. Alternatively, you can set up your own key, generate a different key, or choose other advanced options. Without the correct key, users will not be able to use the wireless network.

Work behind a firewall
A firewall is a barrier that checks both data and requests for data that are sent to your network, and discards any suspicious items. Firewalls are available in many varieties, both software and hardware. Some networks use a combination of both types.


Common Wireless Networking Hardware Vendors

Linksys Support
Netgear Support
Microsoft Support
D-Link Support
Motorola Support
Apple (AirPort) Support

Disclaimer: Please note one or more of the above links link to external websites. Universal cannot be held responsible for the information contained in these sites. Neither can we be held responsible for issues caused by the software available from these sites.