Securing a home Wi-Fi network so naughty neighbours don’t steal your broadband

The best way to access the internet is via an ADSL2+ or fast ADSL1 connection at home. If you have a laptop, internet-enabled smartphone or iPhone, a tablet or iPad, or a desktop PC with a wireless card, the optimum way of using this broadband connection is on an internal Wi-Fi network.

Wi-Fi should not be confused with Mobile Wireless broadband – the small USB modem that runs off the mobile phone towers. With Wi-Fi you need either a combination ADSL modem router, or separate ADSL modem and Wi-Fi router devices. This type of wireless internet works only at home, and is much more stable and quick than a Mobile Wireless internet connection.

The big issue related to a home or office Wi-Fi network is that your neighbours may cheekily decide to hook up and use your internet, thus using up your monthly data quota and leaving you with either a “shaped” (slowed down) connection, or excess usage charges. Your everyday connection will also be slower as you are now “sharing” your connection with other computers. Too bad you had no say in the matter.

The way to combat this problem is simply to secure your Wi-Fi network by setting up a lock on the signal, which is only accessible by a complex password of your choosing. When you buy a modem you will do it either from your Internet Service Provider (ISP), or from an electronics store. If you purchase the machine from your ISP it will come with a manual, but your ISP’s technical support team will also be obligated to help you set-up the secure Wi-Fi network.

When you buy your modem at an electronics store it will still come with a manual, but you always have the option of calling up the manufacturer to get advice. Another option is to Google search the modem router’s model number and find the necessary information online.

There are a few basic steps you can undertake to ensure your home Wi-Fi network is secure and that only your family and friends can access the connection. The first is to change the default login information when you initially set-up the network. Don’t tell anyone your internet connection’s user name and password, and create the Wi-Fi network’s password using a combination of letters and numbers. Do not use something predictable like “ABCD1234”.

The next step in the process will be to make sure you disable the broadcasting of your Service Set Identifier (SSOD) in the modem’s interface. What this does is ensures your network doesn’t show up on everyone else’s computer in the area. The main thing to consider is that if people can see your network, you want to have a big “lock” icon next to your network’s name. This way you know you are protected.

If you can see your Wi-Fi connection’s name when your laptop automatically searches for networks (after turning it on), and there is no “lock” next to the name, then you know your neighbours also have the ability to access your data.

The next step is to use WEP, WPA, or WP2 data security protocols, which offer additional levels of security to the network. Again, if unsure how to set these up, give your ISP a call and ask for technical support, or call the modem’s manufacturer.

Another element of protection to undertake is making sure every computer in your home or office has anti-virus software and a firewall installed. These will help to protect your computers from external attacks via your internet connection.

When you are not using your Wi-Fi network it’s also a good idea to turn the modem off. For example, if you are going on a holiday turn the entire system off. If you are only using the internet by connecting an Ethernet cable to your ADSL modem, you should disable the Wi-Fi element in the modem router until you need it again. If the wireless network is not on, you can be sure no one will be able to steal your data.

Disabling your remote administration service can add another layer of protection, as leaving it active leaves open the possibility of others accessing your network settings and broadband connection.

A Wi-Fi network is an awesome way to access the internet, and it’ll stop you from having Ethernet cables laid out all over your house. However, you need to ensure your network is secure, or you may find yourself with some irritating problems caused by unauthorised users.