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Archive for the ‘Networking’ Category

Good afternoon everyone!

 This second edition of the Tech Tips concerns Wireless Networking.

Background
Like me, many of you have a wireless router in your home for your laptop or other portable devices. Even so, some percentage of you probably had the provider’s tech guys connect everything up and provided you with the (hopefully temporary) password to access your new wireless network from your portable device. But can you access your wireless from all areas of your house? Can other unknown people steal your wireless signal and use it for their own means? Should you do banking over your wireless connection? And what is your wireless router’s administrative password?

I hope this helps.

Bear in mind that using a wireless connection is not ideal. It is portable. But it does not meet the same standards of speed or security that connecting to an actual LAN line does. That being said, who wants to run a network line to their kitchen so they can watch The Office on Hulu while they’re cooking dinner? Nobody!

Coverage
You can accomplish the above task even if your wireless router is installed upstairs (like mine) and your kitchen is downstairs. One thing to remember is that the one or two antennas on your wireless router, such as the Linksys WRT54G seen here, is omnidirectional, which is somewhat misleading. Basically, the two antennas send and receive data from the sides of the poles like so:  ß |__|à

SO, if you want coverage on the floor below, you’ll need to turn one of those antennas to point to the side.  ß |__                                                                          ¯

This will enable much better downward coverage of the radio signal for the floor below you. What if you don’t have dipoles on your router? Not to worry. The latest models of wireless routers have internal antennas already configured for maximum coverage. There are also optional antennas that can be attached to most versions from the router’s manufacturer to increase the coverage if needed.

Also, place the router as high as possible on the floor that you use the signal on most, if possible. Try to reduce the amount of interference (microwaves and wireless telephones) between yourself and the router. Changing the channel of either your wireless phone via physical switch or wireless router via it’s administration website (seen later) will also further reduce interference.

For more advanced tips about wireless coverage, such as setting up a wireless repeater, see the attached articles from my favorite informative tech website Lifehacker:  Article One  Article Two

Security
Wireless security leaves much to be desired. Using hacking tools that I’ll not mention at the moment, a tech savvy person can snatch and decode unencrypted  (non https) data that’s being sent/received literally out of thin air. Because of this, it is not advisable to do banking or shopping while at a coffee shop like Oasis, airport, or other free vendor. You can mitigate that risk by only doing those activities on a network that you trust, such as the one at your own home, if it is properly secured. Still don’t think wireless security isn’t needed? Click here. Or here.

 Wireless router address and administration

 First things first…we’ve got to login to your wireless router. I’m going to assume that you’re already connected to your wireless network. From there, if you go to a specific address within internet explorer, your router actually forwards you to access the administration website for your router settings. For instance, if you have a Linksys router like the one shown above earlier, you can type 192.168.1.1 in the address bar within Internet Explorer to access your router administration site. For Netgear brand routers, typing routerlogin.com or 192.168.0.1 will also take you to your router administration website. For other models…Google it.

Each router comes with a default username and password. Linksys is admin for both username and password. Netgear’s is usually admin for the login and password for the password. After using them to login the first time, you should change the password immediately. Why? Because if a semi-smart hacker manages to connect to your wireless network by guessing/breaking your network password, then they can easily go to your wireless router itself, login with the default credentials, and lock you out of your own network. All you can do then is a physical reset of the device and hope for the best.

So please, after logging in with the default credentials, follow the website menu to change the router administrative password.

Next, depending on which model router you have, click the “Configure Wireless Network Settings” link (or something similar) to change the password that allows a device to connect to your wireless network. Look for something labeled WEP or WPA in the menus. These are two of the forms of password encryption. Some devices only support WEP, the weaker encryption, while most newer devices support WPA, the stronger of the two. Set your network password as one of these two options so that any device that connects to your network requires a password.

After that, within the same router administration website, you should change the default title of the SSID (network name) from “Linksys” or “Netgear” to  something familiar, like your last name, or if you’re more worried about privacy, just a favorite familiar word…even simply “Home”. The administration site has a checkbox to broadcast your SSID or not. If disabled, you have to manually type in the SSID before Windows can find it when searching for available wireless networks. Although slightly time consuming depending on how many wireless devices that you have, this further reduces your footprint as a target of a  “war driver” (drive-by hacker as seen to the right).

For further security precautions, see this article about Home Wireless Security Tips.

Congratulations, you are now an educated wireless user! I hope you’ve enjoyed this version of the Tech Tips newsletter!

Thanks!

8 Nov 2010

Tech Tips #2

Author: dustinwa | Filed under: Networking, Tech