Traveling to a new area and need wi-fi access? Check ahead of time with WeFi.com. That’s a user-donated map site of wi-fi networks. Some of these are commercial and some are just unsecured private networks. The unsecured ones might be accidental or might be private sites that the owners have deliberately left unsecured so others can use them.
This should be a reminder to secure your own wi-fi network so you don’t end up on this map!
(Just after posting this I got my copy of Tom Mighell’s Internet Legal Research Weekly, and Tom had a section about wi-fi security. I’m going to lift the whole section and reprint it here. If you don’t already subscribe to Tom’s newsletter, do it right now. It’s free, and the advice is invaluable.)
We are *still* working our way through a multi-part series on computer security, and this week we’re talking about your home (or perhaps small office) network. Many of you are probably using wireless routers at home or in your office — but how many of you can say that no one can break into or use your wireless connection? Here are a few basic tips to keep unwanted users off your network.
- Change the default — nearly all routers come pre-configured with Admin as the username, and either no password, or just “password” as the password. All hackers know this. Change these defaults, so people on the network can’t take over as the Admin.
- Stop broadcasting — your router broadcasts your SSID (the “service set identifier, if you’re interested), or network name, to make it easier for people to find. If you turn off the broadcast (through the admin control panel), people won’t be able to see the network. It won’t keep out the pros, but it should stop your freeloading neighbors from poaching the wireless connection.
- Use a MAC — not the ones from Apple, or even Burger King. Every router has a MAC (media access control) address. You can configure this control to allow access only to those devices you specify. Again, this won’t stop a seasoned hacker, but every little bit helps.
- Encrypt your connection — your router will either support WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) or WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup), which encrypts your wireless connection, so that only users with the key can access your network.