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Wired or wireless - Secure your home network



January 16, 2008 Back to Article
Introduction
Many people got new computers over the holidays, and are setting up or expanding their home networks. If you’re among them, we’d like to offer a few tips on how to keep your network and your PCs as safe and secure as they can be.
There’s something in the air
Let’s start with wireless (WiFi) networks. They’re very popular and for good reason. Unlike wired networks, they don’t require drilling holes through walls or stringing cable. They’re also harder to secure because, obviously, with a WiFi network, your data is literally flying through the air. And unless your network and PCs are secured, even moderately skilled hackers can pull that data out of the air. They can park outside your home, sit in a nearby house or apartment, access your network, look around on your PC, steal your personal information, or even take control of your PC.
Wired for safety
A hardwired Ethernet network is, by nature, safer and more secure than WiFi, but it is still vulnerable. Instead of breaking into the network, as with WiFi, hackers usually break into one of the PCs on the network, which can give them access to the information on all the PCs. The following security tips apply to both wired and wireless networks, except where noted. While there is no such thing as absolute security, the more of these tips you follow the more secure your wireless network will be.
Secure both the network and each PC
  • Use the included security software that comes with your wireless or wired router to secure the network.
  • Rename your network. Out of the box, most routers use their own easily identifiable names (SSIDs) that make them easier for hackers to crack. Change the router name to one that doesn’t give you or the network type away.
  • Use the media access control (MAC) feature that is usually included with your router. It lets you name each PC on the network and restrict network access to only those PCs.
  • Secure each PC with its own firewall, so that even if a hacker gets into the network, he/she won’t be able to access the PCs on it. If your PC doesn’t include firewall protection, good Internet security software does.
Use strong password security
  • The security software that comes with most routers usually offers several levels of password protection. Don’t use WEP (wired equivalent privacy) passwords as they are easily hacked. Use at least WPA (Wi-Fi protected access) or WPA Personal passwords, or an even more secure format, if offered.
  • Create hard to decipher passwords. Don’t include your name, birth date, address or other obvious words or numbers. The best passwords are a random mix of letters, numbers, and characters, eight or more characters long.
  • Change your password often.
Use up-to-date security software
Internet security software, such as Norton 360™ and Norton Internet Security™ 2008, will help you maximize the safety and security of your home network. It adds security features that neither PCs nor network routers offer. Such features include –
  • Firewall protection for each computer in the network.
  • Transaction security to help ensure your online shopping or banking transactions are secured.
  • Antivirus protection to help keep viruses, Trojan horses and worms from infecting your PCs.
  • Antispyware to block hackers from placing spyware on your PC.
  • Email scanning to remove viruses from email.
To maximize the effectiveness of your Internet security software, make sure it is always up-to-date so that you are always protected from the very latest security threats.
Have a safer, more secure New Year
All of these security measures are relatively easy to implement and will enable you and your family to enjoy your PCs and the Internet this year -- free from worry about the safety of your precious personal information.
For more tips and detailed information about securing home networks (especially wireless networks), we recommend these two articles from Symantec.com – Secure Your Wireless Network and Protect Your Digital Assets.

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