Secure your wireless network

Most of you might have enabled wireless encryption, which is only one of the 6 steps mentioned in this article to make your wireless network safe and secure from hackers.  The screenshots mentioned below are from Linksys wireless router. But, you’ll find similar options for all the 6 steps mentioned below in wireless routers from any other vendors.

1. Enable Encryption

Let us start with the basics. Most of the wireless router has the encryption disabled by default. Make sure to enable either WPA or WPA2 wireless encryption.  Click on Wireless -> Wireless Security , to enable the encryption and assign a password as shown in Fig-1. Following are the different wireless encryption options available.

  • WEP (Wired Equivalent Protection) 64-bit and 128-bit: WEP is an old wireless encryption standard. Never use WEP encryption, which can be hacked within seconds.
  • WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access): WPA-PSK is also refered as WPA-Personal. This is a new version of wireless encryption standard and more secure than WEP. Most of the wireless adapters on your laptop will  support WPA.
  • WPA2: This is the latest wireless encryption standard that provides the best encryption. Always use WPA2, if both your wireless router and laptop wireless adapter supports it.

2. Change the SSID name

SSID (Service Set Identifier) refers to the name of your wireless connection, that you see on the “Available Wireless Connections” list from your laptop while connecting.  Changing the wireless name itself doesn’t offer any protection, but usually discourages a hacker, as they know that you’ve taken some steps to secure your wireless connection.

3. Disable SSID broadcast

You can avoid your wireless name from getting displayed on “Available Wireless Connections” on all your neighbors laptop. This can be done by instructing the wireless router not to broadcast the name to everybody. Once you’ve disabled the SSID broadcast, the first time when someone wants to connect to your wireless network, you need to provide the name to them. Click on Wireless -> Basic wireless settings -> Click on the Disable radio-button next to “Wireless SSID Broadcast”, as shown in Fig-2.

4. Enable MAC filtering

Even after you have performed the above item#1 – #3, a very determined hacker may still get access to your network. The next security step is to allow wireless access only to your trusted laptops, by allowing wireless connection only to known MAC address. MAC (Media Access Control) address is an unique identifier attached to most network adapters. In this case, this should be the unique identifier of your laptop wireless adapter.  On Linux, do ifconfig from the command prompt to get wireless hardware address. On windows, do ipconfig /all from the command prompt to identify the MAC address as shown below.

C:>ipconfig /all
Ethernet adapter Wireless Network Connection:
Connection-specific DNS Suffix  . :
Description . . . . . . . . . . . : Dell Wireless 1390 WLAN Mini-Card
Physical Address. . . . . . . . . : 00:1A:92:2B:70:B6

Click on Wireless -> Wireless MAC filter -> Click on Enable radio-button next to “Wireless MAC filter” -> Click on “Permit only PCs listed to access the wireless network” radio-button, as shown in Fig-3.

Click on Edit MAC filter list and add the MAC address of your laptop to this list. If you want to allow access to more than one laptop, add the MAC address of all the laptops to this list as shown in Fig-4 and click on “Save Settings”.

5. Change password for Web Access

The default password for wireless web access are the same for the specific model of a wireless router assigned by the manufacturer. Change the default password of the wireless router web access to a strong password. Follow The Ultimate Guide For Creating Strong Passwords to choose a strong password. Click on Administration -> Management, to change the password as shown in Fig-5 below.

6. Disable administrative access through web

As a final step, make sure to disable web administrative access through wireless. Once you do this, to make any configuration changes to the wireless router, you can always use ethernet cable connection from your laptop to configure the wireless.  Click on Administration -> Management -> Disable radio-button next to “Wireless Access Web”, as shown in Fig-5 above.