Thursday, April 26, 2018
Amit Dubey(Cyber Expert)

HOW TO:SECURE THAT WIFI!

We live in times when life without WiFi seems unimaginable, or rather, unbearable. In our quest to always stay connected, we often make our phones an accomplice to it, by turning them into Wifi hotspots. But these very modes can turn into the unsafe entry points of infringement of privacy. Amit Dubey on how to secure your WiFi Hotspot and increase its speed.

Friends, nowadays, it’s quite common to have a personal WiFi network at home and most of us do have our own WiFi router. Sometimes, we even create a WiFi Hotspot on our mobile phone using Tethering. But are you aware that WiFi hotspots are the most common entry points to breach our privacy? There are multiple ways through which one can crack your password and consume your bandwidth. Once your WiFi router is hacked, it’s easier to hack your other systems which connected to WiFi. Securing a wireless network is very important, because if you don’t, your neighbors can access your files and check what’s going on in your life. Even worse, hackers can use your internet connection to upload illegal materials, and the investigation agencies will follow you after that… Here, we will understand the techniques through which you will be able to secure your wireless home network.

The other common problem that we face is data speed issues. We don’t get the committed data speed on our WiFi connection, and that’s quite frustrating sometimes. There are ways through which you can not only increase your wifi speed, but can also ensure its security. Your WiFi router works on an open loop connection system, and its speed decreases as the number of connection (end point) increases. If somebody has hacked your router, and is sharing your bandwidth, that might also be a reason for your decreased data speed. There are many Android and iOS apps, available on app stores, which can easily crack a WiFi password if not encrypted with a high level of security mechanism. So, the very first thing that we need to do is, to check the configuration of our router, and then change it to a suitably high level of encryption. If you know the make and model of your router, you can find its manual or access details on the internet. Such details are also printed on back of the router

You have to open your browser (IE, Chrome etc.) and type the given IP address in the browser, if you are using an Airtel wireless router, then it would have a default IP Address of 192.168.1.1, default username of admin, and default password as password. As you try to access the given IP address through the browser window, it will popup a window to ask the login and password. Once the login details are filled correctly, it will take you to the configuration page of your router. If logged in for the first time, it’s advisable to change your router password through the given configuration page. This would be your first step to make yourself secure against any intruder. Hackers may use packet sniffers to steal data, transacted through your routers, if your communication channel is not encrypted. That’s why it’s important to keep your router at a high level of encryption. Once you move to the encryption configuration page of your router, you will see various encryption options like WEP, WPA Personal, WPA Enterprise, WPA2 Personal, WPA2 Enterprise etc.

Though, WEP is the most widely used Wi-Fi security algorithm in the world, it is also the most vulnerable. In fact in 2005, the FBI gave a public demonstration, where they cracked WEP passwords in minutes, using freely available softwares. Adopted in 2003, the next advanced encryption algorithm is WPA. It is better than WEP, and cannot be hacked so easily, with open softwares, but a smart hacker with some advance softwares, can crack the password in 6-8 hours of continuous effort. You should choose WPA2 encryption, if it’s available in the supported options of your router. Every router gives you an advance way of restricting unknown users from your routers. You can map fixed number of devices/gadgets which would be allowed by the router for internet access. This can be achieved by using MAC Filtering option of the router. Here, you just enable the specific devices which can access your WiFi services, by specifying their MAC addresses in the registered list of the router. But this could be a problem for your friends and visitors as you may have to add their MAC every time you want to give access to a new device, and that could be a pain.

You can also disable the SSID Broadcasting and then your router becomes almost invisible for the devices those are not registered with the router. This could be good to protect you against unwanted interference, but it will still be vulnerable against hackers. It will also add complexity when you will configure your own devices on your wireless network.

You should be aware about the fact that most of the routers can be accessed over the Internet and can be reconfigured remotely. You can also enable network drives for network storage, for backup recording etc., especially, when you are using IP TV set top boxes. It’s advisable to disable the remotely accessible options of your router.

Though, your router configuration page would also have a display to show you the connected devices with the router, which will expose any unwanted user to you, if he has connected with your router, and is accessing your bandwidth.

Alternatively, you can also use some open software which can always show you the list of such connected devices with your router. You can install, who uses my WiFi, and become aware about unwanted users. Even though, there are so many security features in the router configuration, none of these options can guarantee hundred percent security, there are still ways to hack a router by faking a MAC identification or by breaking WPA2 encryption.

Once the network is secured, our next concern becomes the network speed. It’s quite frequent when we are watching a Video or uploading images on Facebook, that suddenly our network starts running at turtle speed. We start checking on our family members, or requesting them to disconnect their devices but it doesn’t help always. There are some simple tricks that we all can follow to increase our WiFi speed a little, to utilize it to its maximum capacity.

Of course, you must ensure that your internet service provider has given you the router with the latest technology. If you are using a very old connection, and your router has not been changed since a long time, you can request to your network operator for the same or in worst case, you can purchase your own router.

There are four types of routers available, Wireless A, B, and G are old and slow, and wireless N will give you the fastest speeds around. The model type is normally printed at the back slip of the router. WiFi signal often deteriorates by the obstructions and it matters a lot where you place your router with respect to the client device, which is accessing internet. You should choose a location for the router so that you get minimum obstructions, or crossing walls to get the signals, this will help a lot.

Signals are also attenuated due to Inter-Channel Interference, which is caused by your neighboring routers. Wireless routers operate on a number of different channels, and your router should be configured on a channel which should have minimum or no overlap with such neighboring routers. You can easily change the channel through your router configuration. But to see the impact of interference, you can install a mobile app, “WiFi Analyzer”, which will help you to choose the best channel for your router with respect to the neighbor’s routers.

There are some workarounds that can also be used to enhance the signal strength, sometimes, I just cover my router’s antenna with an empty soda can, and it has helped significantly to increase the covering distance. You can also try covering the antenna with aluminum foil, and see if it works.

Sometimes, there might be memory leaks in the software, and the router needs to be reset at least once in 2-3 days to ensure a committed performance. You should also check if your router is heated up due to excess downloading. Rebooting the hardware at frequent intervals is always advisable.

After following the above tricks, you should find that your home Wi- Fi is faster, more reliable, and more secure than ever.

October-2016