June 29th, 2012

As of 2011, there are almost 1.3 million broadband subscribers in Pakistan out of which 1 out of every 6 subscribers is a wireless network(Wi-Fi) user.  We all fancy being able to roam around anywhere and having a continuous internet connection on the go but not too many of us are not aware of the risks involved of being connected 24/7 especially on public networks.

You wouldn’t like being investigated for illegal downloads you never did or being alleged for hacking an official software without knowing jack about it. But this can certainly happen if somebody else around you is misusing your unprotected internet connection without your consent.

Public places, libraries, cafés etc. are common places for youngsters to discuss assignments and projects as well as have good cup of tea over a hangout but using an “open internet service” at such public places can come with its baggage of risks for potential people who can misuse any information you send out using that public network.

When two or more users use the same internet connection, secretly getting all data from one computer to the other over the same connection is no problem for any person who knows how to exploit it. On an unsecured Wi-Fi network, simple information such as the files on your computer to intricate details such as your log in usernames and passwords, as well as your E-Commerce (any online purchasing, selling) account details can be easily accessed.

Therefore, not only should you be careful while connecting to public networks, you should also be sure that your own Wi-Fi setup has complete privacy and protection enabled so nobody can sneak in to your computer and spy over your browsing activities!

Following are some tips for you to follow and setup privacy on your Wi-Fi network and secure your internet connection,

–          Change Default Administrator Passwords (and Usernames)

All computers and Wi-Fi devices come with default administrator usernames and passwords. These credentials are the same over all the devices shipped out of the certain company hence; you might run into a million other people having the same credentials the first day they purchased their device. Therefore, the first thing you need to do is CHANGE the default username as well as password. Customize these credentials and you’ve taken the first step to protecting your internet connection.

–          Do Not Auto-Connect to Open Wi-Fi Networks

When you set up your computer or internet devices, it might have an option of “Connect to any open network” set by default. Make sure that you have disabled this option so your computer does not automatically connect to a new hotspot or your neighbors’ router without notifying you.

–          .  Position the Router or Access Point Safely

The position or access point of your router and where it is placed is something you might have given little thought to. But actually, smart placement of your router has its significance in securing the internet connection. Placing your device in the gallery or in the porch of your house will make it easily visible and thus accessible to your neighborhood and surroundings. The ideal position for keeping your router is in the center of your house or simply inside your room!

–          Enable Encryption

Encryption technology is that technology which scrambles messages sent over wireless networks so that they cannot be easily read by humans. There are innumerable encryption technologies out there in the market but you need to find the most suitable and most powerful technology for your Wi-Fi connection. Different types of encryption technologies are WEP, WPA, WPA2, etc.

–          Change the Default SSID

SSID is an acronym for “Service Set Identifier”, which is a 32-character sequence that uniquely identifies a wireless LAN (WLAN). Every Wi-Fi device comes with a default SSID but knowing the SSID does not let anyone simply break into your account but it certainly makes it much easier.  So while your configuring and setting up your wireless network, MAKE SURE to CHANGE the default SSID!

–          Disable SSID Broadcast

Your wireless access pointer or router broadcasts the networks name or SSID over the air at regular intervals. This increases the risks of anyone breaching into your network and trying to misuse it. Hence, disable SSID broadcast on your device.

–          Enable Firewalls On Each Computer and the Router

A firewall is a set of related programs, located at a network gateway server, which protects the resources of a private network from users and from other networks. Make sure to have firewalls enabled on your computers and routers and for extra security, you may also consider installing personal firewall software’s on your systems.

–          Enable MAC Address Filtering

A Media Access Control address (MAC address) is a unique identifier assigned to network interfaces for communications on the physical network segment. Each Wi-Fi possesses its MAC address which keeps a track of all devices that connects to the host router. This is an efficient way of knowing which devices are connected to your network!

–          Assign Static IP Addresses to Devices

Most networks, official or home networks are set up on dynamic IP’s. Dynamic IP’s (DHPC) are easy to set up and use but this ease comes with its set of loop holes. For any attacker, it is very easy to access any dynamic IP from your DHCP’s tool. In order to protect your network from being hammered on, disable DHCP and set a fix IP address range (like 10.0.0.x). Connect the device to match the IP address, preventing direct reach of computers to the internet.

–          Turn of the network

Lastly, make sure to turn off your network devices when not in use! This seems impractical if you’re an internet savvy person but you can take such measures especially while travelling or taking long holidays off the internet!

 Happy, Safe and Secure Browsing!