Is Your Data Safe In Your Wireless Network?
Home Wireless Networks
With technological advances and cheaper components, wireless computing has become common place. The advantages of wireless computing make it easy for us to connect to wireless printers, wireless routers, wireless steroes and TV anywhere in the house or office. This gives you the convenience of placing your remote devices in any room and also eliminates the unsightly clutter of wires normally found in a wired computer network. The use of a wireless mouse, monitor, speakers and keyboard also make it convenient and cuts down on the wire clutter.
I have created a pictorial diagram of a Local Area Network (LAN) below, which shows a combination of wired and wireless components.
Wireless Router & Modem Combination
Now that you have upgraded to a wireless computer network, how safe is your system?
I see two areas of concern for most wireless computing networks (Privacy and Data Security), especially for home use and small offices.
Is your home or small office wireless network PRIVATE? Does it require a Password for someone to use your network? I have seen home wireless computing networks set up with NO login required, which allows anyone in the range of the system to be able to connect and use your network. I suggest that you use a Password for login and using your wireless network. It will prevent anyone else from using your wireless network.
Even though you have a login Password, it does not help with data security. Have you incorporated any type of data security features into your wireless network, i.e., simple encryption or Virtual Private Network (VPN)?
When your wireless computer connects or sends data to the internet, or even to your wireless printer, the data is exposed to anyone who has the technology to capture it in the air. If your data is not protected, this means that most of the time you are operating insecurely. This is more critical if you are sending and receiving financial (banking) data.
For home wireless computing, a simple encryption system like Wi-Fi Protected Access version 2 (WPA2) , which is available in most wireless routers, may be sufficient. Many people who have wireless computing do not use this feature of their router.
There is a good tutorial at Computer World on setting up the WPA2 encryption features on some routers. A video showing how to set up the WPA2 encryption for a Linksys router is shown below.
Network Your Computers Safely - Step-by-Step
How to Set Up WPA2 Encryption on a Linksys Router
Small businesses may need to look into a VPN, which provides more data security. A VPN encrypts data leaving and entering your computer and even though the data is still being sent in the open air for hackers to sniff out, the information is encrypted which makes it useless to them.
- Require a login for your wireless computer system
- Use existing WPA2 features in your router to encrypt your data
- Small businesses set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for data security.
Note: Public Wi-Fi Hot Spots may not provide data security.