How to Block Hackers on Your Wireless Home Network

By Alan Hughes

The ease of installation and relatively low cost of wireless networking has resulted in a growing number of home wireless networks. While a wire-free network makes resource sharing and Internet connectivity flexible and easy, it also introduces a number of security risks. Hackers drive through neighborhoods looking for unsecured wireless networks that they can exploit for either fun or gain, or just plain sabotage. Most wireless routers have features that allow you to block these hackers from your wireless network.

Step 1

Activate WPA or WPA-2 encryption on your router. If your current router does not support the newer encryption standards, consider upgrading your router to gain the highest level of security. Some older computers and operating systems do not support WPA or WPA-2 natively, but can still connect to a WPA router. If you have to scale back your security level and use WEP encryption, be sure to use a key phrase of at least eight characters when you create the encryption key. This provides reasonable security with the weaker standard.

Step 2

Change your wireless router’s administrative user ID and password from the default settings, which are typically “admin” and “password,” respectively. These defaults are known by hackers and available on the router manufacturer’s website. Make the settings difficult to guess and not easily connected to you. For instance, do not use your birthdate, anniversary or pet’s name. Write the credential information down for future use.

Step 3

Turn on MAC address filtering on your wireless router. A MAC address is the actual hardware address of the network interface in a computer. By building a table of accepted MAC addresses in your router, it will respond only to requests from interfaces in the table. This step alone will keep most hackers out of your network, as only the most skilled are able to fake a MAC address transmission.

Step 4

Disable the Service Set Identifier (SSID) broadcast feature. The SSID is the network name that you see when you view available networks. Drive-by hackers will not see a network name, just an unidentified network. The less information you provide to hacker, the harder it is for him to find an opening into your wireless home network. If you must broadcast your network ID, change it to a name that is not easily connected with you or your home. “Big10Net” is much better and more obscure than “Williams.”

Step 5

Disable remote administration on the wireless router so that hackers cannot break in via a wireless connection. Perform configuration only through the router’s wired LAN port to ensure maximum configuration security. If a hacker gains administrative access to your router, he can easily gain access to every computer on your network.