Protecting Your Wireless Network from Hackers

6/11/2007

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Many households are now opting for the convenience of a wireless network and the Better Business Bureau has tips on how to keep your network safe from hackers.

War Drivers—as they are so ominously called—literally get in their car and drive around town searching for wireless networks they can connect to. When they find a poorly protected wireless network, they can potentially sneak onto your computer and steal personal information such as credit card and bank account numbers, social security numbers and many other forms of personal information.

Now, there are even War Spammers who employ the same method as War Drivers but, once they get onto your wireless network, install viruses and potentially turn your computer into a zombie—distributing spam without your knowledge.

The BBB offers a number of steps you can take to protect your home or home-based business wireless network:

  • Setup password protections for your computer. Make sure your network, computer, and potentially even your files are password protected. You’ll also want to change your password monthly at a minimum.

  • Check their name at the door. Every wireless-enabled device has a unique MAC, or Machine Access Code. Many wireless routers can be set-up to identify and allow only computers you want on your network based on their MAC address.

  • Install additional firewall software on your computer and keep it updated. Not only should your wireless network be setup to keep strangers out, but you’ll also want to install firewall software on your computer to make sure that only authorized users can log on.

  • Disable file sharing. In addition to what you’re transmitting over the Internet, hackers are also interested in what is saved on your computer. Files, documents, and unencrypted e-mails are all up for grabs if you don’t disable or restrict file sharing.

  • Turn off your wireless connection when you’re not using it. The longer you’re using a wireless connection, the more time a hacker will have to figure out how to break into your computer, so always disconnect your computer from a wireless network when you’re not actively using the system.

  • Keep your network a secret. Wireless routers broadcast a “Service Set Identifier,” or SSID, to let computers or other devices know of the network’s presence. Turning off the broadcast means that War Drivers won’t even know your network exists.

For trustworthy advice on the steps you can take to stay safe online and protect yourself from identity theft, contact the BBB or visit www.bbb.org.

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