Do you know how well your wireless network would stand up to hackers?
If you’re like most independent business owners, probably not. You’re busy enough as it is just focusing on the things that make you money.
When it comes to technology, as long as everything seems to work, you’re happy just to keep using it.
But just picture it. What would your life be like if bad guys broke in to your wireless network?
They could infect you with ransomware, scrambling all your data and demanding a hefty sum for the antidote. They could steal your files, snoop your emails, perhaps get your bank details or your customers’ financial information.
They might hijack your email account to spread malware to your contacts, damaging your reputation.
There’s so many ways it could go wrong — but that’s why you need to know how to secure wifi so this doesn’t happen to you.
Local Businesses in the Firing Line
Hackers see local businesses as easy marks.
With a small team and simple IT needs, there’s no in-house technician to keep things patched. Wireless security feels all too easy to skip.
There’s not a lot to prompt you to attend to this until after it’s all gone wrong.
But enough doom and gloom. You can learn how to secure wifi by following a few simple tips detailed below.
Keep Public Wi-Fi and Private Wireless Networks Separate
Offering free wi-fi to your customers?
It’s all too tempting to implement it by sharing the passcode for your existing private wireless network.
I mean, what could be easier? No IT skills required. Ba da boom, ba da bing. Sorted.
But this is a TERRIBLE idea.
This means anyone off the street can access the same wireless network you use, with the same access you enjoy. They can access the same files on your server and spy on all your network traffic.
If you want to offer wireless internet to the public, you really want them on a separate network. Learning how to secure wifi starts with this first important step!
And you can often do this with no new hardware. Many consumer grade wireless routers offer a “guest access” mode, which broadcasts a second network for less trusted users. Enterprise grade equipment can be set up for many wireless networks.
Stop Using the Default Wireless Network Name
A hacker’s job is so much easier if they know exactly what they’re hacking. All it takes then is looking up the device’s known vulnerabilities.
That’s why it’s such a bad idea not to change your wireless network’s name. If you stick with the default, you’re broadcasting the device you’re using.
For networks that aren’t offered to the public, it’s also a good idea not to use your business name.
That makes it a little bit harder for attackers to know which network is yours.
I’ve often thought “FBI Surveillance Van” would be a great name for a wireless network. But it will do to use anything that doesn’t give away who you are or what equipment you’re using.
Use an Up-to-date Encryption Protocol
Because wireless networks send electromagnetic signals through the air, there’s really not a lot to stop anyone else in the area listening.
That’s why it’s crucial that these signals be properly encrypted. A good wireless encryption protocol can’t stop anyone from listening, but it will stop them making sense of what they’re listening to.
The best encryption protocol in widespread use at the moment is “Wi-Fi Protected Access 2,” more commonly known as WPA2.
This has been around since 2006 and is now supported by just about all wireless access points and devices.
But, for whatever reason, a lot of wireless networks have been set up using the older WEP or WPA encryption protocols.
Either the network needed to cooperate with older equipment when it was set up, or whoever set it up just didn’t understand what they were looking at when they selected the protocol.
So how do you know what encryption protocol you’re using?
On a Windows 10 computer:
- Click the wireless icon at the bottom right of your screen
- Click the “properties” link listed under your wireless network
- Scroll down to where it says “Security type.”
On Android or Apple operating systems it’s a similar matter of looking at the settings.
If you find you’re still using either WEP or WPA encryption protocols, it’s time to switch over. These older protocols are vulnerable to intrusion.
Despite their best efforts to get it right the first time, manufacturers often leave security holes in routers and other networking devices.
Just last October, a major hole in the WPA2 encryption protocol was discovered, leaving 90+% of all wireless networks insecure. Specific problems in specific devices are also discovered all the time.
Now here comes the good part. You’re not stuck with these vulnerabilities. Manufacturers fix them with periodic updates for the device’s firmware – the software embedded in the device.
Downloading and applying firmware updates can be a bit fiddly, but it’s not entirely out of reach for the intrepid DIY type. If you can find the manual, it should show you how to secure wifi that has these issues. If not, check out this guide.
If you rely on outsourced IT support, you should double check that keeping your router firmware updated is part of the agreed scope of responsibility.
Save Yourself Pain and Hassle
It only takes a quick few minutes to understand how to secure wifi — and a few minutes more to fix them if need be.
But it can save you so much headache.
Still need more help? Check out the Small Business Owner’s Guide to Computer Networks.