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Securing a Wireless Network

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Last week, we talked about setting up your wireless network and the options that are available. For the home, home-office, or small office, wireless is a great alternative which offers a lot of benefits and flexibility.

The headaches involved were also mentioned. One of the biggest of those headaches is security.

Just putting in an 802.11a, b, or g network is not enough. Just because the wireless standard is supposed to be secure doesn’t mean it really is by default. The 802.11b standard, especially, is very open to risk from outside intrusion.

Most people know that your wireless/cordless phone is, by itself, pretty insecure. A phone of the same model or a receiver set to the right frequency can easily pick up the transmission – utilizing your phone or listening to your conversation. Luckily, the limited range of these devices and the sheer numbers of them are good limiting factors to this type of privacy breech. Still, a phone with a cord connected to the wall is much more secure than a phone with an antenna.

The same is true of networking gear. A network connected by wires is much easier to secure than a network that is wirelessly beaming information every which way. That much is obvious. However, the security of wires comes at the price of flexibility. That’s where the tradeoff is and on the whole, wireless is a great alternative.

To secure a wireless network requires a little common sense as well as a little technical savvy when configuring the settings for the network itself. First, the actual location of your wireless gear is important.

Try to locate the transmitters (especially the “hubs” or “access points”) in an area where, while accessible to as many systems as possible, access to an outside wall or window is not available. In fact, the more “centralized” you can make your network transmissions, the more you’ll limit the options a hacker has at finding an access point that is “safe” for him to use. If he has to be physically in your office or in the office next door in order to use it, he’s limited as to what he can do with the network. Because wireless networks are flexible, you can centralize like this and, as circumstances change, move your units to cover a broader range – always keeping in mind the area covered outside of your “zone.”

Continuing with the theme of access points, do not allow “rogue” access points on your network. A rogue access point is one that is not officially a part of the network. For instance, let’s say you’re in a small office and one of your co-workers, Jill, brings in her wireless access point because she wants to be able to use her laptop on the board room – not currently covered by the network. Instead of requesting through channels that this be set up, she merely brings her own in, plugs it into the network, and starts using it. This access point probably hasn’t been set to the same security standards as the rest of your network and is therefore a liability. Making this against the rules up front will make others aware that it is not allowed so they don’t assume that it’s “OK.”

Access points can usually be set to have individual login ID and passwords for setup. Changing the defaults is a big step towards raising security. This can usually be done through the access point’s software via your computer. Setting security standards like 128-bit WEP, Service Set Identifiers (SSIDs), and “authenticating” users with a firewall are also good ideas. While none of these individually will stop an intruder who knows how to hack a wireless system, every stumbling block helps and will slow the intruder down.

Further, by limiting the access rights of certain users (on any network, not just wireless setups), you limit the possibility of a hacker getting a legitimate user’s pass codes and entering the system. If you further set the network to allow only a limited number of users (say there are 10 people in the office, set up only ten user accounts and allow no more) on at any given time, you will stop “clones” from appearing – the same user being logged in more than once.

Simple security measures and a watchful eye can keep your wireless network safe from intrusion and unauthorized use. Even a home- office should have some measure of security to keep the sanctity of data and access.

Aaron Turpen is the author of “The eBay PowerSeller’s Book of
Knowledge” and the editor/publisher of two successful newsletters, in
their fourth year of publication, The Aaronz WebWorkz Weekly
Newsletter and Aaronz Auction Newsletter. You can find out more about
these and other great resources from Aaron at his website

http://www.AaronzWebWorkz.com

Securing a Wireless Network
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About Aaron Turpen
Aaron Turpen is the author of "The eBay PowerSeller's Book of Knowledge" and the editor/publisher of two successful newsletters, in their fourth year of publication, The Aaronz WebWorkz Weekly Newsletter and Aaronz Auction Newsletter. You can find out more about these and other great resources from Aaron at his website http://www.AaronzWebWorkz.com WebProNews Writer
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