No Cable Necessary - Security & Safety In A Wireless World


4 months ago

By Eric C. Montague

Today, everyone is connected to the Internet, and we’re all doing it without a wire. You can find free Wi-Fi in any restaurant or cafe and Bluetooth connects our cars, homes and devices together. While wireless technology has given us the freedom to go anywhere and still stay connected, it has also opened a new world of illicit activity. These activities can make you a victim in less time than it takes to set up a wireless connection. Today, we’d like to share a few ideas on the security, hardware, and best practices of wireless connections.

But first, we wanted to share some of the funniest wireless connection names we’ve run into in our work as technicians:

  • ThePromisedLan
  • Connecting…
  • YourWiFIsHot
  • LanBeforeTime

You can be funny and creative even with your wireless technology.

Security

The first rule of wireless connections is to keep your identity and your data secure.

Like any other kind of technology, wireless communication has changed and evolved over the years. There have been half a dozen versions of Wi-Fi security that have come and gone since the beginning of the web.

Years ago, we were asked by a client to demonstrate the claim that their network was insecure. Their wireless was setup using a WEP protocol. Unfortunately, there are several toolkits available on the internet that allow anyone with a little computer knowledge to hack a wireless network setup with WEP. Within an hour, we were able to connect via their wireless and send a printout to a printer on their network demonstrating that we had gained access. After that, their network was quickly updated to more current protocols.

Another method of finding holes in wireless security is called “war driving.” This is the practice of driving around and mapping the available broadcasting wireless networks and the corresponding settings. One such example of this is the WiGLE project. You may want to plug in your address and see if your wireless network is listed. You might be surprised by what you find. This is why understanding wireless security is critical to protecting yourself.

A common feature of most wireless devices is to “hide” your wireless network. This will prevent it from advertising its name, such as “PrettyFlyForAWiFi” (we don’t make these up). Although this doesn’t protect against hacking, it is an additional step to avoid your name showing up on things like the WiGLE project.

Before you setup your wireless network, make sure you’re using the most up to date protocols. At Executech, we want to take the pressure and worry of keeping your business safe. If you have any worries or questions about your setup or protocols don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 877-448-2724.

Hardware

For any kind of wireless hardware, we love Ubiquiti devices the best. They are affordable and have great performance.  We had a client with 4 access points using an inferior product and their Wi-Fi was unreliable.  We asked multiple times to allow us to replace the access points with Ubiquiti AP-AC Pro devices. At first, they didn’t see the sense in exchanging the old 4 access points to 4 new Ubiquiti devices.  They would tell us that, “I have 4 now, why will 4 different ones fix it? I need more devices of the same product.” We asked if we could simply try the solution, look at the results, and if it didn’t improve, we wouldn’t charge for it.  We swapped out the 4 devices, and they haven’t had a problem since!  

Another good product is Ruckus. We recommend Ruckus when a client wants to “monetize the internet.”  This means we create a wireless network for your customers that can actually give you a return on your investment. Many retail businesses use this to show relevant ads, ask for reviews or inform their customers while they use the free Wi-Fi. One example of Ruckus in use was when we installed a wireless network for a car dealership. While on the free Wi-Fi, customers would see a display ad popup every 15 minutes.  Another example is for a Wi-Fi installation at a restaurant. Before customers could get on the free Wi-Fi, they had to either “Like” the restaurant on Facebook or leave a Google review. There are endless possibilities with this kind of system. You can truly “monetize the internet” with a Ruckus device and solid internet strategy.

If you’re looking for the simplest device at a low-price point, go with the Apple Airport Extreme.  It is very simple to setup and configure.  If you can spend a little more, the Ubiquiti will give much better coverage.

Best Practices

Now that you’ve set up a secure wireless connection, here are a few best practices to keep in mind.

If you are in a densely-populated area, don’t leave your Wi-Fi in its default setup. The wireless channels it uses to connect to your devices are most likely, the same channels any neighboring system is using. This creates competition in the wireless airspace. Many Wi-Fi routers and access points have built-in site scan tools. These tools check the surrounding air space for competing signals and report back. Run these tools and if necessary, change the channel your Wi-Fi router or access points use. Make sure they are as spread out (non-overlapping) as possible based on how many access points you have as part of your network.

Also, do your best to keep your Wi-Fi router or access points away from other systems that can cause interference. These can include, microwaves, large flat panels, professional wireless gear, or anything else using a large amount of electricity or made from dense materials. This will help you to get the most range from your device’s antennas.

The last thing we’ll mention is that more is not always better. If you have more than one access point, adjust the power output of the Wi-Fi radios to a slightly lower setting. This will help your own system from competing with itself and offer better connectivity for your devices. If you have neighboring Wi-Fi networks that are overpowering yours, you might try asking them to adjust the power of their Wi-Fi signal so you don’t have to crank up yours and potentially interfere with their network.

That’s a wrap! Keeping your wireless network secure doesn’t need to be hard or complicated. If you follow these simple points about setup, hardware and maintenance, your wireless network will service your needs and stay secure. Also, if you needed a few ideas on what to call your Wi-Fi network, we found a few more:

  • Bill Wi, the Science Fi.
  • ItBurnsWhenIP
  • UseThisOneMom3
  • New England Clam Router
  • Go Go Gadget Internet

What’s the funniest or strangest wireless connection name you’ve ever seen? Let us know in the comments below.

If you have any questions about setting up a wireless network or if you’re experiencing problems with your current setup, please call us. We’re your local, professional and trusted experts on all things tech. 877-448-2724