Computing Helpdesk – how to secure your wireless network

by , Technology Researcher Computing Helpdesk 09/11/2013
wireless security

Has your wi-fi has been slowed to a snail’s pace recently? It could be that you’re due a new laptop to cope with all the internet’s latest inventions. If your home network isn’t password protected, it’s more likely that you need to set up a few simple security measures.

From positioning your router away from your neighbours to changing the way new computers discover it, you we explain how to secure your wireless network.

Home networking guide – our verdict on how to set up a wireless home network

1) Change your wireless password

If your home wi-fi isn’t protected by a password this means that anyone within range of its signal can use it. Not only will this slow down your overall internet speed, but it could mean hackers can tap into the computers connected to your wireless network.

To add a password to your router, you’ll need to access its settings by typing the default access address written on its base. This looks something like 92.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1. Once you’ve logged into this settings menu, you’ll be able to choose a new secure password for your router.

2) Encrypt your router

Although encrypting your router sounds like a complex process, it’s easily done using the same method you used to change your password. In your router’s settings menu, you’ll be offered a choice of WEP, WPA and WPA2 encryption. Pick WPA2 as it’s the most up-to-date and secure standard.

3) Change your SSID

Your SSID is the name of your home network when you log into it. It’s usually the name of your broadband provider follower by a string of numbers and letters like BTHomeHub-87DYZ-8. Changing the name of your SSID suggests to potential deviants that you understand wireless security and have protected your home network.

4) Disable guest networks

Some wi-fi routers create a special guest network for friends who may need to access your internet. These allow them to browse about without viewing all of the files or devices connected to your network. The downside of this generosity is that it’s relatively easy for a hacker to make the jump from a guest network to your proper network. You can disable guest networks in your router’s settings.

5) Position your router carefully

Not all wireless security tips require you to delve into your router’s settings. Placing a router away away from the front of your home means passers by are less likely to pick up its signal. Plus, there’s always the option off turning off your router when you’re not using it.

More on this

Which? Computing Helpdesk – all our computing advice in one place
Wireless router buying guide – our expert tips
Wireless router Best Buys – the top test lab performers

10 comments

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paul

Turning your router off is a terrible idea. Doing so can cause the exchange to assume there is a problem with your line which in turn will slow your connection down.

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Paulisnotsmart

Paul, thanks for your contribution, you idiot.

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Chris

The one other setting to be really secure is to set MAC address level security. Each wireless network device (whether a desktop pc, laptop, mobile phone, printer etc.) has a globally unique identifier called a MAC address.

Some routers allow you to specify a list of MAC addresses that are allowed to access your wireless network. Well worth the effort to setup on your router.

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David Rose

Seconded – I’ve used MAC address filtering since the start. It’s a bit of a pain when guests want to use your wifi, though you do have the pleasure of finding where to find the MAC address on their notebook, tablet or phone!

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Adam

Sorry to put a downer on this but MAC filtering does nothing to stop hackers. The MAC authentication is sent unencrypted and is easily sniffed, then spoofing the MAC is easy to do. You should stick to encryption and good passwords.

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Rule of thumb.

Never take to heart offensive comments posted by anonymous posters at 4 am.
MOst other people have happy fullfilling lives, it could be suggested that this indicidual does not.

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MB

Well said :-)

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pipTheGeek

Although MAC filtering isn’t a bad idea. It provides only minimal extra security. If someone can guess or obtain the encryption password for your WiFi, it is then trivial to watch traffic to find an allowed MAC address and then set their network card to use that MAC address.
Your only real protection is to use WPA2 with a reasonable password / passphrase.

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Navjit

The only way to secure a wireless network- is to use a 256bit encryption key, via two routers each with a 128bit encryption key each. It works!( perhaps I have let the Gauntlet down by mistake).

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john woodward

since yarhoo took over sky emails I am not getting the service I had before has anyone had the same problem??

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