The OlyPen Newsletter
Tues 16 Nov, 2012 / Issue #05
This Year, Resolve to Proctect Your Home Wireless Network!
The beginning of a new year usually means
time for all sorts of changes. Starting on January 1st, folks resolve to lose weight, get organized, hit the gym more often, plan that big trip they've been putting off, or maybe even make a big life change like going back to school or starting a new career. At OlyPen, there's one New Year's resolution we want all our customers to make. We want you to get 2012 off to a safe start for your family by making sure your home's wireless network and devices are protected from snooping, spying, hacking and hijacking. Along with all the other changes you've got planned for the year ahead, we urge you to make the commitment to stop running your home network unsecured, and to change the name on any wireless routers and modems from the manufacture's default to something unique that only you can identify.
Let's talk about why such changes are so important. Most internet users, without realizing it, are running their home networks unsecured, which leaves them, and their data, vulnerable. When you use a wireless device within your home, that device communicates via radio waves. Those waves are powerful – so powerful, in fact, that they often carry outside your home. If your wireless network is unprotected, people outside your home can access your information.
This is old news to hackers. In fact, hackers have been known to drive through neighborhoods, using radio equipment to search for stray signals. When they find one, it's a cinch for them to use your internet connection and even access your computer and its files, unless you've taken the steps (which, remember, most people haven't) to secure your network. These hackers don't want to work hard. They seek out people who are easy prey, people who are running their wireless networks unsecured, and who are using their computers' default factory settings. Most defaults are set to very low or no security, making it easy for online intruders to access hosts' personal information.
The good news is that you don't have to be a sitting duck for hackers any longer. You can make 2012 the year that you take measures to protect your computer, your network, and your family. A great first step is to rename all your wireless devices so that hackers can't access them using the commonly-known manufactures' names. What many internet users don't realize is that each of their wireless devices (modems, routers, etc) has an individual identity known as an SSID. By default, most such devices are named after their manufacturer – for example “Actiontec” or “Netgear.” You can protect your computer and your data by renaming your wireless devices with unique names that hackers won't be able to easily figure out.
We at OlyPen know all too well what can happen when internet users fail to take this important step in securing their information. Some time ago, we received a call from a customer we'll call Sally Jones*. Sally told our Tech Team that she was having problems sending e-mail. After some basic troubleshooting, we discovered that she was not sending e-mail from an OlyPen network. This seemed rather odd to us, as Sally had OlyPen DSL service and was working from her home DSL connection. After a little more troubleshooting, we discovered that she had logged onto her neighbor's wireless network, and was surfing the internet using her neighbor's DSL service, instead of her own. Both Sally and her neighbor had left their wireless devices with the generic manufacturer name “Actiontec,” and neither of them had enabled wireless security.
Sally's story illustrates just how easy it is to tap into an unsecured wireless network. Her story is a perfect example of both why it's so important to give your wireless devices unique names AND why it's crucial to enable wireless security. Let's take a quick look at the three types of wireless security that are available for use on your home network:
WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access security system 2.0) is considered the gold standard in wireless security, and is currently the strongest Wi-Fi protection available. WPA is the first generation version of this product. Both WPA and WPA2 were created by a non-profit association called the Wi-Fi Alliance. While WPA is still considered an adequate defense against most hackers, it is older and less advanced than WPA2. If you have WPA security protecting your wireless devices, the Wi-Fi Alliance and the OlyPen team strongly encourage you to switch to WPA2.
The third type of wireless security is called WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy). As its name suggests, the goal of WEP security is to provide security as strong as that provided through a wired network. While this sounds great in theory, in practice, WEP has numerous security holes. Unlike WPA and WPA2, which use a standard password system, WEP uses a hexadecimal security key, which can be quickly bypassed by knowledgeable and experienced hackers. The only advantage WEP has over WPA and WPA2 is compatibility. Many older electronics created in the early 2000s, such as the Nintendo DS, only support WEP security.
Unsure about which kind of wireless security is right for you? Need help installing security on your wireless devices? Not sure if your home network is protected? Give our friendly OlyPen Tech Team a call…and check a very important item off your 2012 to-do list!
* Name changed to protect customer privacy.
Below are guides for common hardware that we provide. If your piece of equipment is not listed, or you have any questions, please contact one of our Technical Support Representatives at 360-683-1456 (Toll Free: 800-303-8696)