Safeguard Your Wi-Fi Network
Out of the box, most Wi-Fi routers are totally insecure. Fixing that takes only a few minutes, but you can easily get lost in the confusing menus of your router's management tool. Here's what to do.
- If possible, plug in via ethernet to set up your router at the start--it'll save considerable time down the line. Don't bother installing the special software that comes with your router. Most routers can be controlled via a Web browser, which lets you manage your router from any networked PC.
- To manage the router, type its IP address into your Web browser's address bar. If you don't know the IP address, go to Start, Run and type ipconfig /all in the field. The address will be shown as 'Default Gateway'. You'll also need the user name and password available in the manual or via an online search of the model number. (Try looking at this Default Password List.)
- Once you can manage your router, change the administrator password you just looked up. This is typically under System Settings or a similar option.
- Next, turn on encryption. WPA (or WPA-PSK) is about as secure as Wi-Fi gets today. Set a WPA key, and configure your clients to use the new key. (If one of the devices on your network does not support the WPA version you want to use, though, you'll have to go with a less secure method.) Look for 'Encryption' or 'Security' in the wireless management portion of the page (where you'll also find the following steps' settings).
- It's a good idea to change the SSID from the default, which is usually 'linksys', 'belkin', or the like. Choose an SSID that doesn't invite inquiry from passersby (like 'broken' instead of 'janes-wifi' or '123mainstreet'). For extreme security, turn off SSID broadcasting.
- Optional: Enable MAC address control, which limits access to computers you specify by their unique MAC address. This can enhance security, but MAC addresses are easily spoofed, and using this feature means you'll have to access your router's admin page to add new PCs to your network. To find a PC's MAC address, use the ipconfig command in step 2; look for the 'Physical Address'. Add that address to the allowed list in the appropriate router settings page.