Cyber Security At Home – Are Neighbors Pirating Your Wi-Fi?

To a growing number of Internet piggy-backers, the sweet sound of pirating their neighbor’s wireless network sounds like a good way to get free Internet and this could be a real problem for you.  Imagine a normal situation where you are setting at home on your couch watching TV.  Your wife is sitting at the family computer in the den while your two children are upstairs sleeping.  Suddenly, there is a loud knocking at the door – “POLICE!!!   Alarmed, you jump up to open the door and less than 10 seconds later you are being held down on the floor and being placed under arrest. You are being charged with downloading illicit and illegal files from the Internet.

Over the next 48 hrs, authorities are able to determine that you and your family are not guilty of breaking the law. It turns out that your neighbor has been using your wireless Internet connection to access the family’s personal files and ‘borrow’ your cable modem and Internet bandwidth to download illicit content that law enforcement officials detected and then tracked back to your IP address.

While this may seem far fetched just last year a Minnesota man was sentenced to 18 years in prison for hacking into his neighbors’ wireless network and framing them for distributing child pornography and email threats against Vice President Joe Biden and other officials. These threats are real and there are a few tips to keep your family’s important files, personal information, pictures, and home computer safe from cyber theft and prying neighbors eyes .

1.  Wireless or Not? – If you are not using wireless devices in your home, it’s best to either use a wired (not wireless) network router or change your network router’s configuration so that the wireless radio is turned off.  With your Wi-Fi connection turned off, it won’t be possible for your neighbor to ‘borrow’ your Internet connection without being in your house.

2.  Password protection – If you are using Wi-Fi, you should change the router’s password to something that only you know.  As an example many Linksys routers ship with a default password of “admin.” Good cyber security begins by changing any wireless pass-phrases from their factory defaults to something only you know.

3.  Availability – If you are not home to use your internet connection, does it really need to be available to others?  Some network routers have Time-of-Day settings that allow you to restrict network/Internet access on certain days and in certain time periods.  This limits outside visibility and access to your personal network.  If you have an older router without this option or just don’t want to have to set this up, you could always power down the router when it’s not needed.

4.  Newer security and firewall technology – Wireless routers manufactured more than 2-3 years ago contain only weaker encryption technologies such as WEP.  WEP is insecure and has been broken.  Wireless hackers can access a WEP protected network in just a few minutes. If you are using onlder wireless gear you should replacing these Wi-Fi routers with one that supports WPA2 and/or AES encryption.

5.  Location – When possible, you may be able to maximize the wireless signal within your house and simultaneously minimize your vulnerability outside the home just by placing your wireless router centrally within your house and as far away from external walls/windows as possible.  While placing the access point by the front window may seem okay you may be transmitting a strong signal to others in surrounding houses and or passers-by on the street.

Keep in mind that the same practices that apply to your home networking environment may be even more important when it come to your small/medium size business and that the overall goal is develop a defense in depth strategy.  While business networking environments are usually much more complex, it’s still critical layer in security controls to minimize risk and eliminate vulnerabilities.  Superior Solutions‘ expert IT professionals and cyber security specialists are ready to help your protect your business from cyber crime and network intrusions today.

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