WiFi Security, Piggybacking and Cantenna’s

Is Your WiFi Network Secure?

If you have a WiFi network, and let’s face it who doesn’t, WiFi security is important to you.  Most people believe their WiFi connection is secure, but from my experience, some of them aren’t.   Most SOHO (Small Office Home Office) routers purchased these days include built-in WiFi.  From what I’ve seen, most of the manufacturers are now setting the default security settings to be encrypted.  In the not-too-distant past though either WiFi was disabled or it was wide open by default.  I still find people who unknowingly operate open WiFi networks.  An open network is just that, it’s open like an unlocked front door.  It allows anyone to connect to your network without a password.  Once connected, a person may connect to the internet and use your connection, and they may try to access your computers also located on the network.

We all like those restaurants and other businesses that offer FREE WIFI, but they do that to attract customers.  When it comes to your business or your home, you probably don’t want those types of customers.  If you are a business that wants to offer free WiFi, then you need to take precautions so that the free portion is not directly connected to your secure side.  If you don’t know what that means, then you definitely need to read on!

Piggybacking is the term used to describe using an internet connection without permission.  Using up your bandwidth may not seem that bad unless you have limited bandwidth or are paying for data on a hotspot device.   Now for a little tin foil hat time. It’s not unheard of for law enforcement to get their hands on the browsing records of an internet account.  If you have been sharing your account knowingly or not, anything searched for and or downloaded via your account is on your record.  So if someone has been looking for ways to knock off their boss while connected to your network, that is now associated with your account.

Gaining access to your network also means access to all the computers and devices on that network.  If someone has access to your network they can then attempt to access any computer on that network.  With poor or no passwords on many computers, that potentially gives access to your files stored on your computer.  Once access is gained your pictures, movies, bank info and whatever you have stored on your computer can be viewed.  Depending on the level of hacker you have allowed onto your open network and how much time they have, it’s hard to say what they could access.  Once on the inside it’s possible to lock you out of your own network.

You might be thinking that none of my neighbors are hackers and they all have their own internet access.  My WiFi is only visible if they were sitting on my driveway so I am pretty safe.  While anonymity and distance is a security plus for WiFi it doesn’t eliminate the problem.  With a simple device that can be constructed or purchased your WiFi can be accessed from up to 2 miles away.  The device is called a cantenna and they really work.  The word is derived from can and antenna because it is an antenna placed inside a can.  This changes the omnidirectional WiFi antenna into a directional antenna.  Once the signal is directed it can be accessed from much farther away.

If you still want to operate an open WiFi hotspot for customers you can, but you might want to lock it down with a simple access code like “guest”.  That way the causal passer by looking for open WiFi won’t take notice.  Your customers who are inside hopefully paying for your services can see your sign posting the access code.  This will help reduce your usage to your actual customers.  If you have computers that you conduct business on at the same location, you will want to separate the guest network from the business network.  For home offices or just home usage there is no reason you would want an open WiFi system.  It would be like leaving the front door open all the time.

If you need help setting up a wireless network or want to be sure you are locked down please contact me.

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