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Introduction to Wireless Network Security

Birth of Wireless Home Networking

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It wasn’t too long ago that computers were a luxury rather than a necessity. Only the lucky and the wealthy had even one in their home and a network was something reserved for large corporations.

Fast forward a decade or so and everyone has to have their own computer. There is one for the parents (sometimes two if the parents can’t share nice) and one or more for the kids to use for homework and games. Home users have gone from no Internet access to 9600 kbps dial-up Internet access beyond 56 kbps dial-up access and are moving on to broadband connections to rival or match the T1 connections they relish at work.

As the Internet and the World Wide Web have exploded into our culture and are replacing other media forms for people to find news, weather, sports, recipes, yellow pages and a million other things, the new struggle is not only for time on the computer at home, but for time on the Internet connection.

The hardware and software vendors have come forth with a variety of solutions allowing home users to share one Internet connection among two or more computers. They all have one thing in common though- the computers must somehow be networked.

To connect your computers together has traditionally involved having some physical medium running between them. It could be phone wire, coaxial cable or the ubiquitous CAT5 cable. Recently hardware has been introduced that even lets home users network computers through the electrical wiring. But, one of the easiest and least messy ways to network computers throughout your home is to use wireless technology.

It is a fairly simple setup. The Internet connection comes in from your provider and is connected to a wireless access point or router which broadcasts the signal. You connect wireless antenna network cards to your computers to receive that signal and talk back to the wireless access point and you are in business.

The problem with having the signal broadcast though is that it is difficult to contain where that signal may travel. If it can get from upstairs to your office in the basement then it can also go that same 100 feet to your neighbors living room. Or, a hacker searching for insecure wireless connections can get into your systems from a car parked on the street.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use wireless networking. You just have to be smart about it and take some basic precautions to make it more difficult for curiosity seekers to get into your personal information. The next section contains some simple steps you can take to secure your wireless network.

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