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Properly Securing a Wireless LAN

How do you know if your wireless connection is secure?  If you didn't enable security, it probably isn't. In any event, you can start by clicking on the "Wi-Fi" icon at the bottom of your screen. If you are anything like more than 50% of all wireless users, you will notice something like this: "Default network - Unsecured". An unprotected wireless network gives an open invitation to malicious intruders, basically allowing them to march right in. Once inside, an attacker can thieve sensitive data, distribute spam messages or install malware on your computer.

Fortunately, there are a few ways to secure your wireless connection. In this article we will overview five simple steps that will make your network less vulnerable to cracking attacks.

# 1 - Change Administrative Usernames and Passwords

Your router comes out of the box ready to provide a wireless connection. The default user name and password allows you get going quickly and make an instant connection to the web. The problem is that these default credentials are an easy target for hackers. In fact, there are many sites hosted by crackers that actually have an extensive list of default usernames and passwords for a variety of wireless routers, making a hacker's job that much easier. To prevent this from happening, you should change the username and password for your wireless router immediately after first logging in.

# 2 - Change your Default System ID

Most routers, whether they're provided by D-Link or Linksys, come with a default system ID number called the SSID (Service Set Identifier). Just as with usernames and passwords, several home users tend to leave their system on those default settings. This poses a potential security threat as strong signals are available to hackers who cruise the streets in search of wireless networks with default names. While knowing the SSID isn't enough to allow entrance into a network, it does give an intruder indication that the user hasn't taken the property security measures. Because of this, your SSID should be immediately changed when configuring your LAN.

# 3 - MAC Address Filtering

Your wireless connection may serve benefits to several users inside the home and outside of it as well. The best way to learn if anyone is taking advantage of your Wi-Fi signal is to enable MAC address filtering. This feature will provide you with a quick view of devices using the network. The best advice is to manually enter the MAC addresses of all your home devices. This will only allow connections to the network from those devices, helping to prevent neighbors and outsiders from abusing your wireless signal.

# 4 - Make Use of the Firewall

Most routers come with built-in firewall components - use them. Since this feature can be easily disabled by a user making configurations, you should periodically check to make sure it is still on. This is an additional security measure that will hide the presence of your signal and ultimately strengthen network security.

# 5 -Upgrade you Encryption

Encryption is an important part of wireless security. If the data being sent back and forth over your network isn't encrypted, an intruder can easily get inside and monitor activity. WEP is the earlier encryption standard and is no longer recommended by experts. WPA is the more preferred method of encryption, although WEP does provide decent security for home users.

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Spyware has many ways of getting onto your computer, such as:

When you download programs - particularly freeware, or peer-to-peer sharing programs.

More covertly, spyware can install itself just by you visiting certain sites, by prompting you to download an application to see the site properly.

ActiveX controls. These pesky spyware makers will prompt you to install themselves while using your Internet browser