Do You Believe This Myth?
There’s a common myth many people believe about WiFi. That myth is that WiFi is a separate network from that of hardwired devices. There’s a common misunderstanding that a phone using WiFi can’t access a hardwired computer or printer. While there are some environments where this may be the case, the majority of the time this is NOT true for most homes and small businesses. The fact is WiFi is just an extension of the same network that hardwired devices are on. Devices on WiFi can see and interact with hardwired devices and vise versa.
You will see how important this is to security when I tell you about my experience over the weekend. We were visiting family in another town, and in two different locations I was able to access the local WiFi of these small organizations because it was open and not secured. Being curious, I scanned to see what devices were on the network, and attempted to gain access to the router. In both cases I was able to use default login credentials and accessed the router. If I had nefarious reasons to gain access, I could have done any number of things to the network. I could have changed the default password thereby locking anyone else out of the router. Then I could have changed any number of other settings that could have wreaked havoc to others on the network or simply locked them out. I had no such intentions and brought this to the attention of my local hosts. In both cases these were older routers with default login credentials. Despite the fact most newer routers come with preset random WiFi passwords they seldom have random passwords for the router login. However, some of the newer cable modem/router combinations I have encountered use a serial number or a code printed on the router itself to access the router. This would have stopped me from gaining access as I didn’t have physical access to the router in either case. The other thing that would have stopped me would have been to lock down the WiFi itself and not allow me on in the first place. For more on WiFi security
Most newer routers provide for guest access, and this can be left open or encrypted with a simple password. I always suggest some kind of password. Otherwise anyone can connect and use your connection for anything. A guest area allows for access to the internet but not to the router settings or any other devices on your network. This is the best way, other than a separate router, to provide guest access. Guests should never be allowed on your private network. The WiFi password should be at least 8 characters and complex, as it is the only thing keeping people out of your network. See my post about passwords
If you have a small business in the Johnson County, Kansas area and would like assistance checking your network for problems please contact me @ 913 – 893 – 1123
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.