Monthly PC Tips

Secure Your Wi-Fi Network

October 2013 – by Per Christensson

A few years ago, only a privileged few had a Wi-Fi network in their homes. Today, it seems like everyone connects to the Internet via a wireless router. If you have Wi-Fi at home, make sure you don't skip the all-important step of securing your network. This will prevent unknown people from using your Internet connection.

How to protect your Wi-Fi network

The bad news is that there is no single, standard method to secure to a Wi-Fi network. The good news is that it is usually pretty easy. In fact, many ISP now provide users with modems that double as wireless routers. Some of these devices come with a preset wireless password that is printed on the device itself (typically near the serial number). Others provide instructions for how to set your own password.

If your modem does not have a built-in wireless router, you can connect it to a third party Wi-Fi router, such as one made by Linksys, Netgear, or D-Link. Some routers come with software that you can use to configure the router settings, including the Wi-Fi password. Others require you to access the router via a web interface. The instructions included with your router should specify the IP address that you need to type in your web browser, but below are some common ones.

  • 192.168.0.1 (Netgear and D-Link routers)
  • 192.168.1.1 (Linksys routers)
  • 10.0.0.1 (Apple Airport routers)

The web interface or router software will let you specify an admin username and password, which may be something like "admin" and "admin" by default. Make sure to change this login information first, since if someone else accesses your network, he or she may be able to use the login information to change your router configuration. Next, look for "Wireless Settings" or "Wi-Fi Password" within the router settings. This feature can be used to set a Wi-Fi password.

When setting your Wi-Fi password, select a password that is not generic and would be difficult for your neighbors to guess. For example, don't use your pet name or phone number, since it may allow someone nearby to gain access to your network. If your router allows you to choose your a wireless name, don't use your last name (like many people do), but choose something generic, like "Home." This will prevent your name (and the location of your router) from being broadcast to your neighbors.

Once you have set your Wi-Fi password, a lock symbol should appear next to your network when you search for local networks using your computer or mobile device. This means your network is encrypted and cannot be accessed without entering the correct password. Test it once with the wrong password to make sure you cannot access it inadvertently. Then use the correct password to connect to your newly secured network.

Important: If you forget your router's admin or Wi-Fi password, you can typically reset the router settings by pressing a small reset button on the router with the tip of a pen. If you do this, don't forget to set a new password right away.

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