While the latest internet routers often come with new passwords for Wi-Fi networks, many older routers do not. For novice and inexperienced internet users who are unaccustomed to setting up an internet connection on their home computer (after all, we do not all work in the IT department), learning how to set-up Wi-Fi security should be a priority.
There is no excuse for leaving a Wi-Fi network open for other people to access. Whilst is can be useful for visitors to your home, it can simply be too inviting for internet users who look for any access point to the internet and not always with good reason.
Staying The Right Side Of The Law
In your day to day online activities, you may well stay above the law. No downloading adult material illegal in your country or state, no warez downloads (copied software), no torrent downloads (copied digital files and software) and avoiding visiting web sites that would be considered questionable or worse (think: pro-terrorism web sites).
In all these cases, such activities will eventually lead to enquiries by the appropriate authorities. If this happens on your network unbeknownst to you through a security vulnerability (or just not setting up Wi-Fi security!), then ignorance may not be a good defence and innocence many not be easily proven after the fact either.
In some jurisdictions and countries like France, ISPs are being ordered to disconnect customers who are found to be repeatedly downloading copyrighted material. This is the latest attempt to stem the tide of users who are accessing torrent sites to download digital copies of rights protected material.
Loss of internet access for your business or in your home could be problematic and difficult to explain to anyone else sharing the property with you.
Look for slowdowns in the speed of your internet access. Stop all internet browsing and downloads, possibly even closing all open apps, and take a look at the amount of data being downloaded using a traffic monitor. Has the downloads slowed to a trickle or is there still a lot of activity?
If you are on a limited bandwidth plan, it is easier to check what amount of data has been downloaded using your connection. Are you constantly bumping up against the limits of your account? Does it seem likely that this is all your data (and other people authorised to use your internet connection like the kids on their Wii?) or is the network being hacked?
Use The Best Encryption
The original encryption was WEP. This can be easily hacked using available software specific to the task. Since then, WPA and then WPA2 has been released. WPA2 uses one of two 128-bit encryption methods (TKIP and AES). Either type can be selected, but adopting both TKIP/AES is best.
A shared key or password needs to be set-up for the Wi-Fi network. It should be comprised a long string of letters, numbers and symbols. At all costs, avoid using a dictionary word which can be easily guessed or do not use information relevant to yourself or your family such as a date of birth; such information can be found online quite easily.
When using WPA2 and a strong password, it makes it very difficult for anyone to gain access to your Wi-Fi network and it also will show authorities that you have done your utmost to secure your network should any issue arise later.