The World has Gone Wireless

Written by L. Wang

Story by Andrew Snook, as told by L. Wang

Let’s face it—the Internet is a world of its own, and this world has gone wireless. A simple card in your desktop or laptop can instantly connect you to the World Wide Web. There is no longer a need for frustrating Internet cords and plugs.

However, with every good thing, precautions and considerations must be taken. Now that wireless Internet has gotten so popular, it is no surprise that hackers and Internet thieves have found ways to tap into wireless networks.

Hackers are more common than you think

Many people think a hacker is someone who sits in their basement and writes codes to find ways to do malicious things to business and government sites alone. While this can be the case, it’s not true for the most part; there are many benefits to hacking into someone’s personal computer, such as retrieving the information you send out on the Internet—bank account numbers, credit card numbers and private emails to name a few.

People with wireless Internet often forget to secure their networks, leaving them an easy target for hackers and thieves. We decided to test and see how many people leave their networks open, so we drove around the city with a laptop and found that we could connect to over 50 unsecured wireless networks. People can tap into any of these open networks and use software to track valuable information that is exchanged through the Internet.

Your neighbor can be an Internet thief

It is also common for people living in an apartment building to go on an unsecured wireless network and use that network owner’s Internet connection. Some people will steal a connection so they don’t have to pay for it. Be careful—the people using your Internet connection can log onto illegal sites (such as child pornography sites) and you can be blamed for it. There are even people who make maps of places in the city where there are open networks.

Here are a few tips to avoid unauthorized access to your wireless network:

1. Read your manual. It is so easy to just hook up your router and start surfing, but it’s worth it to take the time to read your manual and follow the instructions on how to encrypt your home wireless network.

2. Get WPA encryption. For people who are setting up security on new networks, WPA (Wifi Protected Access) is the best way to go because it is more secure than WEP encryption. VPN and DES are also the new attempts to secure wireless networks.

3. The 64 bit WEP or 128 bit WEP setting is better than the “Off” setting. 64 bit WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) is the standard encryption. It is faster than 128 bit WEP but less secure. WEP has three settings: Off (no security), 64-bit (weak security), 128-bit (a bit better security). However, WEP is not difficult to crack, and using it slightly reduces performance. If you run a network where WEP is turned off, any of your neighbors can log on to your network and use your Internet connection.

4. Buy the same brand for your network card and router or access point. When you have the same brand for these devices, setting up a secured wireless network is much easier.

The world has indeed gone wireless and so can you, but before you hook up your router and throw the manual aside, consider protecting yourself first. High security is better than no security.

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