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Checking the Security of your Wireless Network


Almost all of the devices we use now have wireless functionality, it’s almost a standard now, to the extent that ethernet cables are almost seen as completely antiquated. The convenience of a completely wireless network cannot be overstated but this convenience can come at a cost to a network’s security. Especially if you’re on a business network, wireless security is a perpetual task that requires constant vigilance and a keen eye. The primary concern with wireless networking is that unauthorised users can stealthily hook into your system with relative ease and if they know what they’re do they can do so without being detected. ‘Hacking’ into a wireless network is often simply a case of figuring out the networks IP address and password and amazingly, many networks are still left completely unprotected by even that! If one of these hackers gains access to your wireless network, all of your personal information will be at their disposal and in a business context, this information could be used for corporate espionage, blackmail or for even more illicit purposes. It’s important therefore that wireless network users perform regular vulnerability assessments, seeking out potential holes in the system and filling them in before destructive, unauthorised users can slip through. Checking your wireless network security should primarily involve figuring out exactly how your network appears to those outside it. If you can find an easy way into it then chances are that somebody else will be able to and their intentions will more than likely not be pure.

Checking the Security of your Wireless Network

What wireless devices are connected to my network?

Chances are that all of your electronic devices will be connected to your network. From your games consoles to your smartphones and laptops and of course all nearby wireless routers and WAPs (wireless access points). By using a network vulnerability scanner you can search for all wireless traffic in the area and collect the location information of all devices with potential access to your network as well as the identity of their owners. A vulnerability scanner is essentially an application that can be run from a Windows, Linux or Max operating system that checks all aspects of your devices (network ports, firewalls, applications etc.) for potential security holes. You could either run the scanner yourself or hire a company who specialise in wireless networks such as TCG Network Services to do it for you. Once the scan is done, compile all of this information into an ‘inventory’ so you know exactly what wireless devices you want accessing your network.

Rogue devices

Any wireless device that you don’t want to have access to your network are technically rogue devices and unless you know otherwise they should all be considered potential threats to your network’s security. Any devices you don’t recognise can be blocked, as can any frequency bands or channels that you don’t use. Blocking off these superfluous channels may seem like a drastic measure but it’s better to be safe.

Testing access points

All of the wireless access points that make up your network should be as secure as your devices and routers if not more so as technically anyone can gain access through a WAP. Make sure that all of the WAPs latest patches, drivers and firmware are installed and that the default password has been changed. You’d be surprised how many networks have been hacked into simply because the owners neglected to change the default password from ‘admin’ or ‘0000’ to something less obvious. You should also make sure all WAPs have been properly configured to adhere to the settings that provide adequate filtering and encryption protocols.

Keep track of your devices

Modern homes and businesses will constantly be purchasing new wireless devices so you should regularly be updating your inventory to include any recently purchased phone, tablet, desktop or even VoIP phone that has access. Make sure that every one of these devices (individually) is running on the most recent software or firmware and that all possible legitimate anti-spam and antivirus software is installed and configured.

Taking care of your vulnerabilities

Finally you’ll want to make sure that any gaps you’ve discovered in your network security get filled in. This will involve installing new patches, making sure all of your passwords are distinct and contain at least one upper case letter and a number and letting everyone who has your consent to access the network know that changes have been made.

It’s important that these 5 steps are undertaken on a regular basis. Try marking a spot on your calendar every 2 or 3 months. It might seem like you’re being a little overly pre-cautious but just think of it this way, would you be so flippant with your own home? If someone breaks into your network, they’re breaking into your personal space. So be sure to keep that in mind next time you question your network’s vulnerability.

About the author: 

Jeremy S is a freelance copywriter from the West Midlands who runs a security check on his wireless network every 2 months and hasn’t experienced any digital intruders yet as a result.

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