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David Mittleman
David Mittleman
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Is Your Wi-Fi Network Secure?

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Wireless networks have become increasingly commonplace in the last ten years or so. As laptops, tablet PCs, and other mobile devices free us from our desks, Wi-Fi routers allow us to work and surf from anywhere in the house. The downside is that these networks are far less secure than wired connections, as a well-publicized incident in Buffalo, New York made clear.

Wireless routers are easy to set up. However, many casual users don’t bother setting up a password encryption for their home network. Wired-Equivalent Privacy (WEP) keys can help protect the privacy of a wireless network, but the passwords can be extremely difficult to remember. A challenging password is good for security, but inconvenient and unnecessary in the minds of many consumers. But an unsecured network is little more than an open invitation for unsavory individuals who want to access your files or download illegal material using your IP address. A cyber criminal doesn’t even need any special skills to use an unsecured network – it’s similar to leaving a safe full of money unlocked. That’s what happened in the Buffalo case, where a neighbor used one man’s unsecured network to download thousands of illegal images. The innocent man was raided by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, and it took a week for authorities to clear the man and find the real culprit.

There are several things you can do to protect your wireless network. First and foremost, set a password and WEP key. You can also change your settings to prevent your network from broadcasting its availability to other devices. Beware of open, public networks at coffee shops and the like – there may be hackers prowling the airwaves for sensitive information. Taking these simple steps will help protect your privacy.