Wireless Network Security Threats and Control Measures
Like any other technology, wireless network technology has its own share of vulnerabilities. Unlike wired networks, wireless networks do not have built-in physical security. Therefore, they are more prone to attacks. It is important to understand the threats to wireless networks to be able to guard against them.
Threats to Wireless Networks
Nowadays, wireless LANs are present almost everywhere. With an increase in the proliferation of wireless networks, the number of threats has also significantly increased. The main reason for this is that an attacker does not need physical access to the network and can intrude from a distance. The threats related to wireless network security are as follows:
Misconfiguration: Many novice users deploy their wireless networks on their own using default unsecured configurations. This makes it possible for hackers to gain easy access to their networks, hard drives and use resources such as Internet connections. To correctly configure your wireless router, you must always read the instructions manual that came with it.
Evil Twin: An evil twin is a (rogue) wireless network access point that impersonates as a legitimate wireless access point. Hackers create evil twins to trick users looking for free Internet connections. The evil twin looks like a hot spot with a very strong signal that attracts users to connect to it. Once users log in, they become susceptible to attacks of various kinds.
War Driver: The act of searching for unsecured Wi-Fi networks by an individual in a moving vehicle, using a computer and an 802.11 wireless LAN adapter is called war driving. This is done to gain unauthorized access to computers on the non-secure Wi-Fi network. This attack can be performed by the war driver within the range of the router.
You must configure your wireless network keeping the following tips in mind:
Turn off your wireless network when you’re away from home: This will minimize the possibility of a hacker accessing your network.
Set up a security key for your network: Wireless networks can be protected from unauthorized access with a network security key (or password). A router usually comes with a default user name and password that is used to setup and configure it. Hackers are aware of these login credentials; therefore, it is important to change the default password to something that is difficult to crack. If your router supports Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) security, always keep that setting enabled.
Enable encryption: You can configure your router to allow access only to users who enter the correct password. These passwords are encrypted when they are transmitted. Therefore, when hackers who try to intercept your connection, they will not be able to read your password.
Use a firewall: Firewall provides an extra layer of defence and can significantly reduce the chance of attackers gaining access to your private wireless network. It monitors attempts to access your system and blocks communication from unknown sources. Most operating systems have a built-in firewall that you can configure.
Securing Wi-Fi Networks
It is imperative to secure wireless networks at the time of setup. This is because network users exchange information that is of confidential nature such as credit card details, medical records, and other financial or secret information. This information must be protected from hackers.
Therefore, it is important to know the frequency that will be used by the equipment that is deployed. This helps to control the amount of interference that the network will face in the environment where it is deployed. Secondly, the security protocol that you choose to use (such as WPA2) will be the most important factor in deciding the security of your wireless network.
To secure a wireless network:
- Read the instructions manual and locate the default user name, password and network name for the wireless access point.
- Plug in the router into the electrical socket and ensure that all the lights are blinking.
- Access any web browser and navigate to http://192.168.1.1.
- In the respective fields, enter the default username and password.
- On the Administration page, follow onscreen instructions to change the password.
- Click Save settings.
- Log in to the router providing the username and password that you have just created.
- On the Wireless tab, on the Administration sub-tab, change network name.
- Click Save settings.
- To encrypt a wireless connection, choose the highest level of protection that all computers in a network can handle.
Measures for Securing Network Connections
With advancements in computer technology, there is a proliferation in the number and severity of threats affecting networks. To ensure that your data is safe at all times and your network is protected from hackers, it is mandatory to strengthen your defences. Experts recommend implementation of additional security measures over and above the usual security protocol followed on most networks.
Network connections are further secured if following security measures are in place:
Firewall: It is a software that prevents hackers or malicious software from gaining unauthorized access to your computer through a network. Firewall filters all network traffic, guards against and reports any intrusion attempt on your computer. Your network must have a firewall. Note that a firewall cannot protect a system against new threats, malicious insider and connections that dofge it.
Antivirus: It is a software that is designed to detect and destroy virus on a computer. It safeguards a computer against viruses, trojan horses, malware and malicious programs such as spyware and adware. Most modern antivirus software have an update feature, which enables the software to download virus definitions as and when they are available. The virus definitions enable the antivirus to identify and remove any new threats that were previously unknown to the tool. Norton Antivirus, McAfee, Avast, and AVG are some of the commonly used antivirus software.
Encryption: Encryption is a security technique used to encode the data sent over a network. It makes the data unreadable by converting it to a special type of code. This ensures that only authorized users can read the data after it is decrypted using a key or a password. It is also possible to encrypt an entire network.
Browsing Only Secure Websites: It is a good practice to browse secure websites, especially when you are exchanging personal and sensitive information, for example, while performing a financial transaction. Secure websites use encryption to protect personal information (financial and medical) that you try to send over the Internet.
The following methods can be used to identify a secure website:
- Lock icon: When you see a lock r icon in the address bar it means that the website you are visiting encrypts any information that you enter. The icon also indicates that the web browser has verified the website’s ownership with a certificate and will encrypt the traffic to and from the website.
- URL: In addition to the lock icon, you will see https instead of the usual http as in https://. The ‘s’ in https stands for ‘Secure’ and indicates that all communication between your browser and the website is encrypted. This ensures that the information that you provide on the website is safe and cannot be accessed by hackers. HTTPS uses HTTP with the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) cryptographic protocol and its successor Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol.