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What Are the Best Tips for Wireless LAN Security?

By T.S. Adams
Updated May 16, 2024
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The primary advantage to using a wireless home network is convenience. A wireless network affords the opportunity to connect to the Internet from practically anywhere in a home, leaving users free to work from kitchen tables and sofas, rather than forcing them to use a stationary wired connection. Unfortunately, this comes at a significant cost. When using a wireless network, anyone within range can see and potentially connect to the network, possibly compromising the security of the personal files and information on the home network's computers. Avoiding this requires prompt and regular maintenance of wireless LAN security.

Undoubtedly the most effective method to implement wireless LAN security is implementing an encryption method on the wireless network. An encryption method scrambles the information traveling over the network, preventing prying eyes from "sniffing" the packets as they move from point to point. Enable this through the router in the wireless home network. Typically, most routers offer a choice between Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA). Some routers also offer WPA2, an upgraded version of the original WPA encryption method. To bolster wireless LAN security, choose either the WPA or WPA2 methods.

If the network is using WEP encryption, a persistent hacker can use a program to randomly guess the password in roughly 10 minutes. Using WPA or WPA2, the same procedure would take 10 to 20 years. Thus, WPA is the highly preferred choice to increase wireless LAN security.

The strength of the wireless network's password is also an important consideration when it comes to bolstering security. Ideally, a wireless password should consist of at least 10 characters, using a random combination of upper and lower case letters, along with special characters such as "!" "%" and so forth. As the password can be saved to network computers, do not worry about choosing something that can be easily remembered; instead, choose something as secure as possible to avoid problems with hackers and snoopers down the line.

Additionally, regularly changing the password on the wireless network is the best way to keep unwanted individuals out of the system. Ideally, change the wireless network password at least once every month. If there is significant personal financial data on the network computers, consider changing it once every week, or once every two weeks. Many routers offer the ability to randomly generate password keys for wireless networks; use this whenever possible, as it will avoid predictive patterns that can develop over time with strictly human generated password strings.

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Discussion Comments
By allenJo — On Jan 22, 2012

@miriam98 - I have a confession to make. I use WPA but I don’t regularly change my wireless password as the article suggests. Actually it’s something I’ve never even thought about. I’ve just had a “set it and forget it” mentality when it comes to wireless security.

It’s true that the password may be difficult to decipher depending on the encryption method used, but it’s not impossible. I’m going to set a reminder to change it at least once a month from now on.

By miriam98 — On Jan 22, 2012

I used WEP for my wireless network security when I got started in wireless years ago. I did it without thinking really. It was just one of the two options for encryption, so I just chose it, thinking encryption is encryption.

Later I found out how wrong I was. WEP allows only about 16 million key combinations; this may seem like a lot but it’s nothing for a computer hacker to crack the key.

WPA by contrast allows for 500 trillion key combinations. Now we’re talking! So that’s why you should pick WPA over WEP. I don’t know the technical reasons behind how WPA does its thing, only that it’s better.

By golf07 — On Jan 21, 2012

My husband and I have a small business and making sure the information we have on our computers is safe is a top priority.

I have been looking into some extra security precautions. Has anybody ever used Microsoft Security Essentials program?

This is a program for small businesses that have less than 10 computers. It would be perfect for our size of business, and wonder if it gives the right extra protection.

I know you can't be too careful when it comes to wireless security on your computers, but sometimes I feel overwhelmed with the choices that are available.

By honeybees — On Jan 21, 2012

I am a big fan of using computer generated passwords. I am not a very creative person, and when it comes to thinking up unique and new passwords I really struggle.

I don't think it would be too hard for a good hacker to figure out the patterns I use when I come up with a password on my own.

Because these are stored in the computer for you and you don't have to remember them, there is no excuse to have a weak password.

Having a password with random letters, numbers and symbols will only increase the amount of protection you get with your WLAN security.

Most people have a lot of personal information on their computers that they really don't want getting into the hands of the wrong people. I try to use every level of protection I know of to ensure that my information stays safe and secure.

By sunshined — On Jan 20, 2012

We use a wireless secured connection for our computers, and I learned a few things from reading this article.

My desktop computer uses a wireless router, and I have always wondered what the WPA2 meant. Now I understand what this symbolizes and why I can say I have a secure connection.

When we first went with a wireless network, I was concerned about security. It always amazes me the number of people who don't have password protected accounts on their computer network.

My son has lived in more than one different apartment building where he could get internet access through the computer connection of somebody else who didn't have a password.

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