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Securing Your Home Computer

Written by ryan. Posted in Uncategorized

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Published on September 22, 2010 with No Comments

By David Fritsch
Website Designer and Managed Services Provider

It seems almost every home has a wireless router hiding in some closet or sitting on one of the desks. This little device allows you to connect to the internet from your laptop anywhere in your house and maybe even your yard. It allows everyone to be online at the same time, and it really makes using the Web fun.
Sadly it can also be an excellent entry point for unscrupulous neighbors and criminals to gain entry to your home as well. Not physical entry, but a type of entry into your personal life that can be even more damaging.


An unsecured router allows anyone within range who has a wireless card in their computer to connect to your router. While this may be as harmless as your neighbor saving a couple dollars by using your internet, this also allows technically-minded individuals to monitor your internet use, collect passwords for personal sites, and eventually steal your identity if they choose. All through your router.
There are several important steps to follow to secure your home network. All of the following tips and tricks should be items that you are able to do yourself.
Also, it is important to check that this is done even if you had your router professionally installed. There is no guarantee that the professional took all steps necessary to really secure your network.
First, add an access password – Every router produced in the past 10 plus years allows some type of encryption. This encryption usually comes in the form of a WEP or WPA code. Make sure that there is one set on your router.
The easiest way to check is to look for the “Wireless Network Connection” symbol at the bottom right part of the screen on a Windows computer. Once found, right click this and select “View Available Wireless Networks.” In the box that opens, you should see the network you are connected to. If it states that this network is an “Unsecured Wireless Network,” we have some work to do.
To set a password, you will need to log into the router through your web browser – both Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox work. Most routers are accessed by typing “192.168.1.1” in the browser’s address bar.
If this does not open a page prompting for a password then you will need to find your IP address first. Double click the computer icon in the corner by the clock that stands for your “Wireless Network Connection.” This opens information on your connection. Click the support tab at the top of the window, and you should see information on your connection including your computer’s IP address. The IP Address will always be in the form of four numbers separated by periods (xx.xx.xx.xx). These can be one, two, or three digit numbers. Change the forth number of your computer’s IP Address to a “1” and put that number in the web browser to access your router.
You will likely need a password to access your router. In most cases, your router will still be using the default username and password. The easiest way to find these defaults is to search for your router brand plus “default password.” For example, if you have a Linksys router, you would search “Linksys router default password.” In this case, I found that the default username and password are both “admin.”
Once logged in, look for a tab or link for “Wireless Security.” Use this tab to select a type of encryption. WPA2 is the strongest level of encryption, but selecting any is better than none. Once you set and save a network password, you will have to reconnect all devices – computers, printers, etc. – to the network with the password you set.
Second, change the username and password – Since you are already logged into the router, you might as well change the username and password needed to access the router. As you can see, a simple internet search will reveal the password to change your router in ways that could make it unusable for you.
In this case, once you are logged in look for an administrative tab. This should allow you to change the password at least. This form should feel just like changing your password on an on-line site. Also, once the change is submitted you will probably need to re-enter it to log back in to the router. Finally, make sure that you store this password in a safe place, even on the router itself. This password change is really meant to protect your router from outside, wireless intrusion.
Third, change the Service Set Identifier (SSID) – This is partly a cosmetic fix and partly a security fix. Many routers, Linksys is most known for this, come with the brand as the SSID. This means for most users that they look for the network named “Linksys” when they want to connect to the internet.
This carries no special risk, except that it screams unprotected router. Changing this value makes it easier for you to identify your network and lets potential intruders know you have taken time to secure your network.
The SSID can be changed while logged in to the router. Look for the SSID setting within the wireless security or setting tab. Change the SSID to anything that you can identify as your router. Also note that you will again have to re-enter the network password on most computers when the SSID is changed, because the computer will assume it is a new network.
Lastly, further reading – The above items will do a lot to protect your home network. At the very least, they will likely keep you from being the easiest target on the block.
For more advanced readers, you may also want to investigate “MAC address filtering” and “disabling remote login.” Though do note that the second will require that you are physically plugged into the router to update settings.
Finally, also encourage your internet professionals to take your security seriously. Any decent internet professional can update these items for you in a matter of minutes, and they really should be doing it as a part of their job. It is your job as the final user though to check up on all of us internet professionals and make sure that we are doing our job as we should.

David Fritsch is a local website designer and managed services provider in Valparaiso, Indiana. He works predominantly with small businesses across the United States through his business, Fritsch Services.

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