Many of us think of network security as a way to make sure our neighbors don’t leech all of our bandwidth but it actually protects more than just our wireless speed.
On September 10th, the 9th Circuit federal court determined that Google violated wiretap laws when their Street View cars invaded people’s privacy by collecting personal information through unsecured Wi-Fi networks (between 2008 to 2010). While Google argued that they were only accessing public Wi-Fi networks that anyone could access, the court didn’t feel that a neighbor using someone’s free Wi-Fi was interested in decoding private encrypted data. And that private data included information such as usernames, passwords, emails, photos, confidential documents and more.
After hearing this ruling we are by no means leading a protest against Google’s Street View cars (you can’t argue against their helpfulness) but we are leading a campaign on securing your wireless networks. Most of today’s wireless products come pre-configured, making setup and ensuring networking security a breeze. With ISP provided modems and pre-configured routers, the pre-set wireless encryption key (password) may be long, full of random letters and numbers and frankly impossible to remember, but this means it is just as impossible for someone to guess it. We recommend keeping the provided password, writing it down and tucking it away somewhere safe but if you would like to personalize your network settings and choose your own password then we suggest making sure you:
- Select WPA or WPA2 encryption (more difficult to hack in to than WEP)
- Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters
- Include at least two numbers
- Do not use anyone’s name, address or phone number – try to make it as random as possible (write it down and tuck it away if you need to)
- Set your SSID (network name) to be “hidden” (do not broadcast) – devices with your network SSID and password already entered will still be able to connect but neighbors, strangers or passing street view cars won’t see your network and therefore will not even attempt to connect
Connecting devices to your secure network like printers or access points is easy with WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup), found on most wireless devices. You won’t need to drag out that secret random encryption key or remember if it was ‘ilovemycat1’ or ‘ilovemycat2’ – you can connect your devices by pressing the WPS button on the router or gateway device and then pressing the WPS button on the device you want to connect. They will then identify each other and connect using a randomly generated encryption key. It’s easy to use and still keeps your network private.
However you choose to do it, secure your network and keep your important information (and bandwidth) to yourself.