Using and securing your wireless network

Wi-Fi is an acronym for WIreless FIdelity. It extends your home network by using radio waves in the gigahertz range. Like a wireless landline telephone it has a limited range. Generally about 65 feet or 20 meters indoors and a longer range outdoors. Many devices now use Wi-Fi for convenience. You will find it on all laptop computers, game consoles, many printers, the iPad, iPhone, tablets, Kindle and Smart TV's. Most cable modems have wireless routers for Smart TV's and computer connections.

Because Wi-Fi uses radio signals, it is less secure than a wired network. Any bystander can easily intercept your communication on a wireless network, so encryption of the signal is essential.

Never do financial transactions on a public wireless network. It's like banking with a megaphone. Anyone within radio range can listen in.

An unencrypted home network has its own set of problems. A stranger could park near your house and illegally download copyrighted music or something illegal like child pornography. The only proof the lawyers or police have is your IP Address. Protect yourself; always encrypt your home wireless network!

You can detect anyone who logs into you secure or unsecure wireless network with the free applet Wireless Network Watcher.


Wireless Net Watcher


Here we see five devices logged in to our network.

  1. A device named MYCOMP2
  2. A suspicious device named new1
  3. A device named WIN7-PC

  4. A device named NETBOOK

  5. A device without a name but this is your router



Encryption scrambles the Wi-Fi signal in a way that makes it difficult to read. There are many encryption schemes; some more difficult to break than others, but since we are most concerned with common criminals any method will do for a wireless network. We are not keeping out the CIA or KGB on home networks.

Every wireless router offers encryption. The different methods provide various encryption key lengths. The longer the key, the more secure the signal. Keys range from 40 bits (5 bytes) to 256 bits (32 bytes).

The Encryption key is a string of 5 to 32 hexadecimal bytes that is exchanged between the router and the wireless device.


Three sample keys:

5 byte (64 bit) Key: 8B54E5A94D

64 byte (128 bit) Key: DD49515423AB30FF7FB98ABA12

128 byte (256 bit) Key: B206D6278760B520072747701DE2B1F63FD1608E7EE2412585CCC3DD1B


In the wireless router and device your password generated from a passphrase. The passphrase is suppose to be an easy to remember phrase that generates the password. Problems arise when the router and device are of different ages and support different protocols. All devices are downward compatible, so the least secure encryption is compatible with the most devices. Fortunately it is also the easiest to remember.


Securing your wireless router

There are multiple passwords on a router. Every router wireless or wired has an IP address and a password. To locate your routers IP address, go hereto find your brand and model.


wifi01.jpg 383x174If we are looking for a Linksys BEFW1154 router, we would scroll down to Linksys, select BEFW1154 and Router Details.

We would get the information shown at the left:

Default IP:

Default Username: blank

Default Password: admin


Now we have all the information necessary to log in to our router.


Bring up your Web Browser (IE, Firefox, Chrome) and type the routers IP address into the URL.

All routers are different so follow the instructions in your routers manual to set up wireless security. If you have lost the manual, you can obtain a PDF copy here or at the manufacturers web site.

If your router is password secured and you don't know the password, all settings can be reset to the factory settings, usually by pushing a pin or paper clip into a small reset button on the back.

You can also find the default router login and password here.

It's a good idea to name your wireless network by giving it an SSID (Service Set IDentification). I've found it convenient to name the network after pets, like AbbyNet, FidoNet or FionaNet. Just a thought.


That's about all on wireless networks. Now go secure yours if not already done.