E-mail :: Print
There are two common ways to connect wirelessly to the Internet - a private or public network. A private network is when you use a wireless router at home and a public network is when you connect to an area outside of your home called hotspot. A hotspot is as public area that offers free or paid Internet access.
The next time you connect your computer to a wireless network at home or at a hotspot, beware of the security risk whenever you send data out in the open air.
Data transmitted wirelessly is easier to capture compared to a wired connection. With the right tools, an intruder can piggyback onto your wireless connection to surf the Internet for free and possibly use it to steal your password and other sensitive information. In order to intercept your data, intruders use war driving.
War driving is the act of driving around neighborhoods to locate any available wireless networks within range that isn't password protected to connect to and possibly exploit.
Please select a link below to learn more about Wireless Security.
Access Point (Router):
- Enable WEP or WPA - By enabling WEP or WPA, you are creating a password to protect your wireless network from intruders. WEP stands for "Wired Equivalent Privacy." WEP is a security protocol specified in the IEEE Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) standard which is designed to provide a wireless local area network (WLAN) with a level of security and privacy comparable to what is usually expected of a wired LAN. WEP doesn’t provide the highest level of security, but it will provide an initial barrier. It is recommended that you purchase network adapters and routers/access points that support at least 128-bit WEP. Some older network adapters may only require a driver upgrade to increase to 128-bit encryption.
A better way to protect your WLAN is with WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) security protocol. WPA provides a higher level of protection; it provides a 256-bit encryption in comparison with WEP which only provides a 128-bit encryption. WPA support is built into Windows XP (with the latest Service Pack), Windows Vista and most modern wireless hardware and operating systems. A more recent version, WPA2, is found in newer hardware and provides even stronger encryption, but you'll probably need to download an XP patch in order to use it. Older routers and network drivers do not support WPA or WPA2. Make sure to consult your manual for both the router and network adapter for compatibility issue.
- Change the default SSID - SSID stands for "service set identifier." It is a sequence of characters that uniquely names a wireless local area network (WLAN).
- Create a strong SSID; something that cannot be easily guessed
- If possible, disable the "Allow of broadcast of name" from broadcasting the SSID. By disabling this feature, a client must match the SSID of the access point.
- Change the default password on the router/access point. - By changing the default password, it will be more difficult for the intruder to make changes and control your wireless network.
- Check if the remote access is enabled or disabled. - It is strongly recommended that you disable this feature. By default some routers disables the remote access feature, but check it anyway. The remote access, if enabled, gives you the ability to access the router remotely using the web browser such as Internet Explorer.
- Locate the router/access point near the center of the building - If it is located near a window, there will be a stronger signal emanating from the building which makes it easier for an intruder to locate your wireless network.
- Use MAC filtering for access control - MAC addresses are unique to specific network adapters, so by turning on MAC filtering you can limit network access to only your computers. In order to use MAC filtering, you need to find the 12-character MAC address of every computer that will connect to the network and enter the information into the router/access point. Be sure to keep the information up-to-date in the router/access point if you add or remove computers from your wireless network. MAC addresses can be "spoofed" (imitated) by a knowledgeable person, so while it's not a guarantee of security, it does add another obstacle for intruders to decipher.
- Disable the wireless connection when not in use - Turning off your wireless connection when not in use will limit your exposure to threats and intrusions.
Note: Contact your router manufacturer for instructions on how to configure your wireless router. If you have Charter's Home Networking product, click here for a step-by-step instructions.
Charter Security Suite
Charter Security Suite is available at no additional cost for Charter Internet Plus and Ultra customers.
Click here for more information on the Charter Security Suite (CSS)
The Charter Security Suite features:
- Automatic updates - Ensures the Charter Security Suite™ has the latest virus definitions
- Browsing Protection - The Browsing Protection features tells you which websites are safe to enter and which you should avoid
- DeepGuard™ - DeepGuard™ has been updated with F-Secure’s® DeepGuard™ 4.0 technology. DeepGuard™ 4.0 proactively protects your computer against new threats by using behavioral analysis and "in-the-cloud" computing technology
- E-mail Filtering - Automatically detect and filter spam and phishing scams designed to steal your private information
- Firewall - Helps keep your private data to yourself by stopping hackers from breaking into your computer
- Parental Controls - Helps keep your children safe from inappropriate web content
- Performance - The Charter Security Suite™ uses 70% less memory and scans for viruses 60% faster than before
- Real-time Protection - Helps keep your computer safe against viruses, spyware, worms, trojans, rootkits, and zero-day attacks
- Spyware Protection - Detects and helps remove spyware from your computer
- Streamlined User Interface - A redesigned user interface for a better experience
- Disable the Automatically Connect to Available wireless network on your laptop or desktop. Educate yourself on which program your wireless device is using to connect wirelessly. For example, Windows XP with SP2 and Windows Vista has built in wireless program that can be used to connect wirelessly while some computer manufacturers, use a third party software. Consult your manual on how to disable this feature or call the manufacturer. If you leave this feature enabled, your computer will likely connect to a wireless network within range without your knowledge which can exposed your sensitive data to security risks.
- Make sure that you have firewall, antivirus, anti-spyware, and your operating system security updates installed. If you purchased the computer over a year ago, you may need to re-subscribe to the antivirus software or install new antivirus software. Once the subscription ends, the software will still be on your computer, however you will no longer receive the latest virus definition updates. Most antivirus software companies charge a fee to renew the subscription.
- Use strong passwords. For more information on creating a strong password, click here.
Things To Know At A Hotspot
The following is recommended when you’re accessing the Internet from a hotspot:
- Turn off File and Printer Sharing
- Make sure that you’re connected to a legitimate access point. Most hotspot has an informational brochure that you can read to educate yourself.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t let anyone see what you are entering in your computer.
- Try not to perform any online transaction such as viewing your bank accounts or paying your bills online.
Following the steps described in this article will help decrease the chances of your data from being intercepted and exploited but it does not guarantee absolute security protection.
Click here to learn more on how to safely surf the Internet.