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Home Care Library

What You Need To Know About Home WI-FI

So what is driving the exponential growth that we have been seeing in the hacking of home wireless networks?  It's being driving by three things:

1) First, more and more homes are installing Wi-Fi  networks, which is creating a huge number of potential targets.

2) Next, people are increasing their online activities and increasing the information that they keep on their home computers. This is increasing the incentives for hackers to gain access to banking information, social security numbers from tax returns stored on computers, large email address books, etc.

3) And the dramatic growth of hackers is also being driven by the improvement in sophisticated hacking tools, which allows both professional hackers to do more damage, and amateur hackers to more easily get into the game. And remember, not all hackers are professionals, some are neighbors (or their children) who discover that they have access to your network.

RISKS TO YOUR FAMILY


Hacking of your home wireless network poses three main risks to your family:

1) Accessing files on your computer.
2) Accessing your email.
3) Using your computer to send spam, viruses, and other illegal email.

Regarding accessing files on your computer, by gaining access to your wireless network, a hacker can see everything stored on your computer and copy whatever they want. They can access your personal files and photos, and see your tax returns and credit card statements. Anything you have on your computer, they can see and copy, or even delete. And sometimes even worse, they can use YOUR computer to download and store illegal files and photos from the internet (such as child pornography), rather than using their own computers.

Next, by accessing your email they can see both emails that you are sending out and the ones you are receiving. So for example, if you are booking a vacation online, they will know exactly when you are leaving and how long you are going to be gone. Plus, they can copy all of the email addresses stored in your contact lists, and use these addresses to start spamming all of your friends and business associates.

And lastly, they can actually put software onto your computer which allows them to use your computer to literally send out millions of illegal spam emails and viruses. And when officials try to track down where these are coming from, they find your computer generating these, not the spammer's computer. And they can also use your computer to distribute illegal content such as child pornography and bootleg software, music and videos.

PROTECTING YOUR SYSTEM


So how can you protect your home wireless network from these hackers? Well the good news is that there are some fairly straight-forward steps you can take to secure your wireless network.

Strong Password.

First and foremost, NEVER leave the default password on your system, and this makes it easy for a hacker to walk right in. Change the default password into what is called a “strong” password, that is, use a complicated password which contains a combination of numbers, upper case letters and lower case letters which make it difficult for a hacker to guess. And be sure to change your password from time-to-time.

Security Settings.

All wireless networks allow you to set a variety of security settings for your wireless access point. Take a few minutes to become familiar with your system, and learn how to utilize its security features such as:

- Changing your network's SSID name
- Enabling network encryption
- Setting MAC addresses
- Enabling firewall protection and set to block anonymous Internet requests
- Enabling HTTPS
- Ensuring logging is enabled (and then check activity logs from time-to-time)
- Disabling the DHCP server.

Turn Down Signal.

The wider your Wi-Fi network broadcasts, the easier it is to access it remotely. So you will want to turn the signal down on your network so that it provides coverage for your home, but does not extend any further beyond than it needs to. Ways you may be able to turn down your system include changing the mode of your router to 802.11g (instead of 802.11n or 802.11b) or using a different wireless channel with less range. You could also try placing the router under the bed, inside a shoe box or wrap a foil around the router antennas so that you can restrict the wireless signal (see costs and reviews of security routers).

Turn Off.

When you are not using your computer, turn off your wireless network, especially at night and when you are on vacation. This does a couple of things for you:

1) it reduces the window of opportunity for hackers to get into your system;

2) it makes your system less attractive to hackers who want to use it for continually sending out illegal emails; and

3) it saves you money on electricity!

Update Firmware.

And finally, from time-to-time you should take a few minutes to update the firmware of your Wi-Fi system. These firmware updates often contain security improvements, and you will want to be sure that your firmware version is up to date so that you have the maximum protection (helpful accessory: internet security).

SUMMARY


The convenience of wireless networks and the increase use of home computers is driving the growth of computer hacking . . . and this increased hacking poses significant risks to your family. But we hope that this article and video has given you the steps that you can take to protect your system from these risks.

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