Whether for business or at home, the chances are you are flowing a considerable amount of sensitive documentation via a wireless network. Technology is amazing at allowing us to get away from wires, but just as the boffins have enabled us to move around a lot more while still accessing data, so other boffins have evolved new ways of hacking wireless networks too.

The chances are you probably set-up your wireless settings when you bought your router and haven’t looked at it since. That could be leaving you at risk of security breaches that are very easy to solve. Here’s a couple of tips on how to make sure you are still operating securely.

Forget WEP – it really is out-dated

Wired Equivalent Privacy or (WEP) security is a prime example of WiFi technology moved on.  The encryption is the sort of thing that would-be hackers like to train on. Even newbie hackers find it easy and quick to break WEP security. If you are using it. Stop now. Upgrade to WPA2 with 802.1X authentication. If your equipment isn’t compatible – check the manufacturer’s websites for firmware upgrades – then invest in new equipment, it will be well worth it.

WPA/WPA2-PSK is almost as bad

Wi-Fi Protected Access is another old school technology that while less likely to be hacked, is vulnerable especially within a business or shared-office environment. The PSK in WPA2-PSK  stands for  pre-shared key, which probably best identifies its risk. The same pre-shared key is used and entered into each client. To maintain security then, you should change the key each and every time a laptop, etc is lost, stolen or an employee leaves. In a shared-office environment it should probably be changed every day. Impracticable in the modern world.

802.11i offers greater protection

If you want to be secure, make sure you have the EAP (extensible authentication protocol) mode of WPA and WPA2 security enabled. This uses 802.1X authentication instead of PSK and thus the ability to offer each user their own login credentials. In practice the actual encryption keys are change regularly and silently in the background, with the security actually controlled on a central server, rather than  each client.

Keep Network components out of temptation

Security extends beyond just encryption, it is also about common sense and removing temptation. Complete your security by making sure all wireless access points are kept out of reach. Out of view, out of reach and out of harm’s way will prevent ‘accidental’ resetting to factory defaults and potential compromising of your security.

Just as you would MOT your car once a year, it pays to build in some regular checks on all your IT. Defrags, software audits and hardware reviews all go a long way towards making your business more efficient, more secure and more effective.

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  • Neil

    While I think it’s fair to say that WEP is obsolete & broken I think it’s unfair to tar WPA2 PSK with the same brush.

    The only current exploits against WPA involve being legitimately attached to the same wireless network (having the key already ) or being attached to the same local network anyway.
    For most home & business users WPA2 PSK with a sufficiently long pass phrase are fine.

    November 14, 2011 at 10:47 am