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How to Secure Your Wireless Access Point at Home

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What Can Happen if You Don't Secure Your Wireless Access Point at Home
Have you heard of war drivers? War drivers go out and look for wireless access points and use the free Internet access. With the price of gas, spending all that time to get free Internet access doesn't seem worth it. But if people are looking for anonymous access to do things they wouldn't do on their own, traceable Internet access, it is worth it to them. And do you know who gets in trouble for what they do? Yes, it is you. You need to secure your wireless connection point. The problem is that some people don't even realize they have a wireless access point and those that do, don't know how to secure it because they bought a router, hooked it up and didn't realize they had more work to do after they got it working. Now the directions are lost.

How To Determine If You Have A Wireless Access Point
Lately when your ISP comes and installs DSL or cable access, they are providing wireless access points, even if you don't request one. Also, if you have multiple computers sharing Internet access, it is probably by using a router. Almost all routers now come with wireless and it is active even if you connected the computers by using wires. You can determine if you have wireless by examining the router or modem. Does it have an antenna? That means that you do have a wireless access point.

Configuring Your Wireless Access Point to Secure It
If your ISP installed your modem, call them and ask them how to configure it to be sure that it is secure. Often, they do this when they installed it and left you directions to access the configuration settings.

If you purchased a router to network multiple computers, you will need to secure it yourself. Most people stop when they get the computers to recognize the Internet connection. Hopefully you saved the instructions but if you didn't all is not lost.
Step One to Secure the Wireless Access Point
You need to access the router. If you don't have the instruction book, you can obtain it by using the support page at the manufacturer's site. NetGear, LinkSys, DLink, Belkin, US Robotics or google the manufacturer. Once you are at the site, look up the model number and instructions.

Another method of accessing the router is by using your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc.) Go to "Start", "Run", type in "cmd" (without quotes) Then in the black box type in "ipconfig /all" (without quotes), and enter. Write down the number for DNS servers and Default Gateway (format will be Close that window. Go to an Internet Explorer window and go to http://(number for default gateway) if that doesn't bring you anywhere go to http://(DNS Servers).

Routers come with default user names and passwords in order to access the router.
Default user names and passwords for popular routers:

user name: Admin or admin or administrator or adm or manager
password: admin or password or 1234
More User Name and Password Combinations for popular routers by manufacturer and model.

Step Two to Secure the Wireless Access Point
NetGear offers a great tutorial on how to secure your NetGear wireless access point and many of the companies listed above offer tutorials on how to secure their products by going to their support page for the model number you have.

The most important options to change for your wireless access point are:

  • Change The Default User Name and Password
    If you don't and someone gets on your network, they can change the settings and lock you out.
  • Use WPA Security or at Minimum Use WEP Security
    The newer WPA security is better but if your router does not offer it, use WEP.
  • Set Up An Access List of Trusted Users
    All you will need to do is authorize devices by their MAC address.
  • Do Not Broadcast SSID
    This will make it harder for someone to just jump on by not broadcasting the network name.
  • Turn Off Wireless Access If You Don't Use It
    If you don't have a wireless device such as a laptop, Nintendo Wii, Apple Touch, or PSP, turn off the wireless access point. You can always turn it back on and configure it if you need it later on.

This Computer Stuff Is Way Over My Head - What Should I Do?
There is no shame in not knowing but you still need to protect yourself. My recommendation is to call your ISP. If they installed your DSL or Cable modem, they will be able to help you. Another recommendation is to hire someone. I realize that companies that offer this service are expensive but often it is worth it if you don't know how to do it. Another recommendation is to check with your local High School or Community College to see if they know a tech savvy student looking for some work. Students like to apply the knowledge that they are learning and students could use a few dollars to help pay for their education.

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