How secure is your wireless network?

Wireless networks are pretty common today. A lot of people use them both at home and at work to provide quick and easy access to the Internet and other network resources. Most people also know that it is important to properly secure your wireless network, otherwise your neighbors and passersby may login and start accessing the Internet on your dime.

Worse yet, if the person is malicious, they could possibly steal information from you or access things that they shouldn’t, getting you in big trouble in the process.

At this point you might be saying to yourself “Big deal. My wireless network requires a password so I’m safe.”  Unfortunately, that isn’t necessarily true.

When wireless networks first became popular you could secure them with a protection scheme called WEP. But as it turned out, WEP was not very secure and it didn’t take long before people figured out how to hack into it. So if you are still using WEP, you shouldn’t be under the impression that your network is secure. It isn’t, and you should do something about it pronto!

After WEP came an upgraded protection scheme called WPA. There are a few different levels of WPA, with some being more secure than others. One of the most popular forms of WPA uses an encryption key called TKIP. It used to be that as long as your wireless passphrase wasn’t something that could be found in a dictionary or otherwise easily guessed that you were secure using this method. However, hackers have recently found a weakness in TKIP and can now hack into your network if that is what you are using.

So, if you really want to be secure, you need to make sure that your wireless network is using the latest and greatest protection scheme. Currently, it's WPA2 Personal with the AES algorithm. Under this scheme, all access to the wireless network is granted through a single passphrase. Currently there is no known way to defeat this type of security (other than a dictionary-style attack).

Another option available is  to setup WPA2 Enterprise. This provides additional security by allowing each user to have their own passphrase, but requires additional infrastructure in order to setup and configure (it requires you to setup and configure a radius server).

So where does this leave you? If you really want to be secure, you should ensure that your wireless network is using WPA 2 Personal or Enterprise with the AES Algorithm. If you aren’t 100% sure if it is or not, then you should assume it isn’t which means your network is at risk, and you should take steps to correct the problem.

If an upgrade is required, what is involved? If your router doesn’t already support the latest protocols, then it is possible that a firmware update from the manufacturer will provide you with that functionality. If you don't need an upgrade, you may need to replace your wireless router with a newer model.

On the client side, at the very least, you will probably need to re-enter the passphrase used to connect to the wireless network. In some cases, you need to delete the remembered connection and then reconnect with the password. In other cases, a driver or software update may be required. While rare, it is possible in some cases that older wireless network cards will need to be replaced in order to connect using the newer protocols.

If you would like help with this please contact Network Services Group, as we would be glad to help. We can figure out whether or not this issue affects you, and let you know exactly what to do if it does. You can call us at 877-815-6974.