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7 Steps for Protecting Your Wireless Network

Wireless networking, more commonly termed as Wi-Fi, is the technology that opens your PDA or laptop computer to the world. However this technology is quite vulnerable to many exploits. A malicious intruder can use the most basic software to detect and capture the signal of your wireless device, along with usernames, passwords, emails and other data you would prefer to keep confidential.

An intruder doesn't have to be inside of your home or office building to manipulate a wireless signal. For example, they could be sitting outside in their car sniffing out your data all while enjoying a sandwich. Before they have a chance to complete the meal, the intruder can learn just who you work for, how to access the company network or even transfer money out of your bank account if the right security is not implemented.

Being that wireless technology is so vulnerable, it is important that you take various measures to protect your personal information. Here are a few simple ways to secure your information against unauthorized access from the guy sitting out in the car, at the library or any other Wi-Fi hotspot offering a wireless signal.

Put up a firewall: A good rule of thumb is to protect your wireless network with a firewall to keep intruders from sniffing your data. While these components often come included within wireless routers, they work best in the form of stand alone applications or as a feature of anti-virus software. If you're running Mac OS X or Windows Vista, be sure that your firewall is "turned on" by default".

Be careful where you roam: In all honesty, there is no need to trade stock from the Wi-Fi hotspot provided by the local library. Wait until you return to a trusted network to conduct such sensitivity activity.

Disable your wireless connection: Is a wireless connection needed when you're working offline? Not really. Mac users can turn "OFF" the AirPort browsing function while Windows users can disable their "wireless connection" from "Network Places" or the "Control Panel".

Limit online communications to SSL protected sites: SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is the protocol that ensures the privacy of the conversation between you and another party. If you must pay for airline tickets or trade stock from the local café, be sure to look for "HTTPS" in the URL rather than "HTTP".

Watch out for the Evil Twin: Malicious individuals often create Wi-Fi hotspots beside legitimate access points. When sitting down to make a connection, you may unknowingly select the evil twin from the list of available access points, giving the malicious individual access to anything you transmit. When using a public hotspot, be sure to ask an employee to verify the name of the access point to reduce your chances of being manipulated by the evil twin.

Encryption: No matter how hard you try, a hacker will eventually try to latch onto your wireless signal. You can apply additional security by implementing encryption protocols to transform your sensitive data into characters that are only readable by intended receivers. Most routers come included with encryption features but many software options are available as well.

Trust no one: Always keep your back against the wall and remain suspicious against all that come encounter with your network. The enemy could be looking right over your shoulder seeking usernames and passwords as your fingers tap the keyboard.

Although no wireless solution is 100% effective, taking a few preventive steps will make an intruder's task of breaking into your network much more difficult.

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