5 Home Wireless Network Security Questions Answered

Young woman using laptop while eating breakfast
Sofie Delauw/Cultura/Getty Images

The wireless router has become such as common household appliance that most people forget it's even there. These devices have become so easy to setup that many of us don't bother to even change the default settings or configure the wireless security features.

Leaving your wireless router unsecured can not only leave your network open to attack, it can also subject your network to leeching neighbors who will eat away the precious bandwidth that you pay your hard earned money for.

Securing your Wireless Router can be tricky. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers to help you choose and lock down a wireless router or access point:

1. Is my Wireless Network Safe if my Wireless Router has WEP Security Turned on?

Answer: No. While Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) was an excellent wireless encryption standard a few years ago, it does not provide the same level of protection as newer standards such as Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA). WEP has been cracked and can be easily circumvented by hackers using tools that are freely available on the Internet.

2. What Security Features Should I Look for When Buying a Wireless Router?

Answer: Make sure any wireless router or access point you buy supports the latest wireless encryption standards such as WPA/WPA2. Other features to look for include:

  • Built-in firewall
  • Media Access Control (MAC) address filtering capability
  • Remote administration lockout feature
  • The ability to disable Service Set Identifier (SSID) broadcasting
  • Access time limit control
  • Parental control
  • Restricted “guest” network zoning

3. How do I keep Neighbors From Leeching off of my Wireless Internet Connection?

Answer: The best way to keep people from freeloading off of your wireless connection is to:

  • Enable WPA2 encryption on your wireless router or access point and set a strong password that is not easily guessed
  • Change the SSID (wireless network name) to something other than the default value set by the manufacturer
  • Turn off the “Broadcast SSID” feature of your router or access point so that only those who know what the network’s name is can access it

4. How Can I Keep my Kids From Using Wi-Fi on Their iPod/DS to Access the Internet?

Answer: Kids will be kids. They are very tech-savvy and will do everything they can to circumvent any security barriers you put up. Here are a few actions you can take to make it as difficult as possible for them:

  • Use WPA2 encryption on your router with a strong password and don’t give them the password
  • Change your wireless router’s default administration password
  • Disable your wireless router’s remote administration feature
  • Locate the wireless router in your bedroom or a locked closet to prevent them from pressing the factory settings reset button
  • Enable the parental control features of their game device or iPod
  • Enable MAC address filtering on your wireless router and exclude the MAC address of their device(s) from that allowed access
  • Enable the access time restrictions feature of your wireless router and limit Internet access to daytime hours only

    5. Is it legal to use my neighbor’s wireless hotspot if he left it unsecured?

    Answer: Is it legal for you to go in your neighbor’s house if he left the door unlocked? No, it is not legal. The same applies to his wireless access point.