It's 12 Noon...Do You Know Who's Using Your Network?
By Charles Hopkins
Published 04/23/2006 | Computer
Wireless networks are becoming more and more popular, and for good reason. Especially if you have broadband Internet access, a wireless router can give you instant communication with the world that is worthy of the science fiction I grew up reading!
The idea of reading email while lounging by the pool, text or instant messaging while doing the laundry, or lounging in the Jacuzzi listening to your MP3 collection is appealing to us all.
Unfortunately, many, or even most, wireless units don't come with security features already functioning. This may not seem like a big issue to someone who is simply setting up a home network, but there are a number of potential problems you should consider.
The most serious problem is the increase in identity theft. If your network is unsecured, the personal data on your wireless electronic equipment is also unsecured. The order you just placed for a book at Amazon may have given your contact and payment information to an unscrupulous hacker!
Nearly every town in which "WiFi" is common will have "War Drivers" and "War Chalkers" at work. These are people who walk or drive around town with wireless equipment, searching for unsecured networks. The "Chalkers" then live up their name, marking curbs and other public items with chalk so that others can more easily find and exploit your network.
Not all "War Drivers" are hackers, of course. Many just want to use your network for free, but the risk is high if you don't learn how to protect yourself. You can usually find quite a bit of free information as to how to secure your network at the website of your router's manufacturer, or by doing a search in a search engine for a phrase like "secure home wireless."
Beyond the truly malicious, there are also your neighbors who may find your network by accident and enjoy nosing into your activities and using your Internet access at will, slowing down your network speed in the process.
Even many businesses use cheap, home-use quality equipment for their company networks. With the poor security often found on small business networks, anyone with a basic knowledge of wireless can access sensitive company and customer data.
If you are unable to secure your network yourself, there are many service companies who will do it for you. A search of your local yellow pages or an inquiry at your neighborhood computer store should yield professional help and get your private data private again.