This is just basic advice without going into technical details. All of the subjects will be included in the manuals that come with your wireless router. If they don’t, you’ve brought the wrong one.

Likewise, all of the features mentioned below should be incorporated on your wireless router. Again, if they don’t you’ve still brought the wrong one. (Unless, you have brought one of those small travel wireless modems for use in hotels or similar. These often don’t have all the features, and sometimes don’t have enough features in order to use them while travelling?)

So you’ve bought yourself a brand spanking new wireless modem to hook up all the PC’s that you have in the house, or because you now have broadband and you don’t want to run ethernet cable round the house. Either way, the first thing you should do once you take the ‘thing’ out of the box is to secure it.

Many WiFi units are set up to work ‘as is’ directly out of the box, (in fact I would further qualify this to say that 99.999% of all WiFi units will work directly out of the box).
Unfortunately, this is open to abuse by those than can and do. So I’ve just installed WiFi, what do I care if someone steals a bit of bandwidth every now and then? Well, that maybe ok until someone parks up outside your house and spends ages sending zillions of SPAM to all around the world, or up/downloading pornography of the worst kind using your ISP connection. It would be ok if it were just your neighbor say, but its those committing the illegal activities that you want to prevent from gaining access to your connection.

Firstly, I would change the default password that was set for the router at the factory. Change it to a strong password or even better a fairly long phrase. This will ensure that no one can go back in and change any security settings ‘if’ they ever did gain access some how.

Secondly, turn off the SSID and change it to something less obvious than the factory sets it to. (Call it "MyHomeThingyWotsit" rather than the rather obvious "Wireless" or "Netgear" as set on some units). The broadcasting of your SSID is basically an advert to any listening devices telling them that your network is up and around. Turning it off means that basically you have to know its there (which hopefully you should do!! So why broadcast it to others?). The SSID is basically the name of your Wireless network and since you have switched off the broadcasting of its name, any devices that you want to connect to your wireless network would have to be told the name of the network to search for. Obviously just switching off the SSID broadcast does not stop the RF being transmitted so a fairly simply WiFi scanner could still detect the presence of a WiFi network, but they would not know what it is called.

Next I would turn on WPA if you have it on ALL of your machines you are going to connect to the network or WEP if you don’t. This will basically require you to enter a password on each of the devices that are going to connect to the network. Once again, use strong password/phrases.

Most Wireless Routers have the ability to limit access by using the MAC address of the connecting device. Each PC or wireless device has a unique serial number (MAC address) therefore no two MAC addresses should ever exist. You can find the MAC address of your wireless PC/device and enter it in the router configuration screen.

All of the above steps are in reality quite simple to do. But since most manufacturers set them up with no security, most end users hardly ever enable any of them (and even less enable all of them). It is not only protecting your PC’s or wireless devices, it is protecting the other users of the complete internet. Even if you have the most secure PC/Wireless device in the world, you are giving them access to all the other non-secured devices on the network by allowing them the use of your connection. And as you are the person who pays the bill, it would be you answering the call of the law if action were as a result of someone misusing your connection.