Wi-Fi signals are just about everywhere in our society. You can’t walk through any major city without encountering hundreds of Wi-Fi signals along the way.
That’s great! However, there are some downsides to having Wi-Fi everywhere. The main downside is that it exposes you and your devices to more security risks than ever before.
Making these security risks even riskier is the fact that people continue to believe some persistent Wi-Fi security myths. In an effort to combat these myths, we’ve collected the 4 most common Wi-Fi security myths here and debunked them just for you:
Myth 1: You Need to hide your Network’s SSID
Your network’s SSID is the name it displays to the world. When you scan for networks in your local area, you can see all of the open and closed networks nearby.
Some internet security “experts” say that you should hide your SSID and prevent other people from seeing your network. This would effectively make your network invisible, which means that people won’t see it and thus won’t hack into it.
Unfortunately, that’s not true for any operating system past Windows 7. In previous versions of Windows (anything before Vista), hiding your SSID may have been a smart move, but it would not stop a hacker on a mission.
Today, Windows 7 and higher operating systems will still find your network if you hide your SSID: it will just say “Other Network” instead of the actual name of your network. From this point, it’s extremely easy for someone to determine your name of the network and, if they have any hacking skills at all, they’ll get into that network in just a few minutes.
In fact, even if you don’t have any hacking skills, you can unmask your neighbor’s “hidden” wireless network in seconds using a wireless network analyzer like Kismet.
Myth 2: You should limit the number of IP addresses your router hands out
Every device on your wireless network needs a unique IP address in order to connect to the internet. The router assigns those IP addresses to all of the devices on your network automatically – including smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc.
But some people say you should limit the number of IP addresses your router hands out. That makes sense, because then you could set the limit by the total number of internet-connected devices you have in the home.
Unfortunately, this is an impractical way to protect your network because a hacker with some basic tools can scan your network to reveal all internet-connected devices and then manually assign one of those IP addresses to another device.
Myth 3: You should reduce your wireless network’s transmission power to make it harder to penetrate
Some people say weaker networks are harder to penetrate. The idea is that by reducing your wireless network’s transmission range, you make it harder for hackers to find your network. You also make it so that hackers have to physically get closer to your router (i.e. walk onto your property) in order to access the network.
Like the other myths listed here, this one sounds good in theory but falls apart in practice. Today’s Wi-Fi hackers cruise around with antennas designed to pick up wireless networks from miles away. Reducing your wireless network’s range won’t reduce your likelihood of being hacked, but it will make it more annoying and difficult to use your own wireless network.
Myth 4: You should disable your router’s DHCP server and manually assign device IP addresses
Your router’s DHCP server automatically assigns a compatible IP address to each device that attempts to join your network. By disabling this server and assigning IP addresses manually, you can prevent unauthorized devices from accessing your network.
However, this myth is false for the same reason that myth two is false: a hacker with the right skills and tools will be able to view all devices on your network and manually assign an IP address to his or her own device.
Just like the other myths, this step is more likely to cause headaches for yourself than for a hacker.
Conclusion: What actually works for Wi-Fi security?
Basically, all of the above tips sound good in theory but provide a false sense of security when you’re dealing with a hacker with any experience.
Yes, these myths will make it more difficult for a hacker to gain access to your network. But think of it like locking your car doors: just because you leave your car doors locked in an empty parking lot doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to steal.
Ultimately, the best network security available today is encryption: instead of using a network password like “KittyKat23”, choose an encrypted network password using WPA or WPA2.
Both WPA and WPA2 make passwords that look like this:
Good luck trying to guess that monstrosity! This added level of encryption is the best defense you have against a hacking attack. To implement it on your router, go to the settings menu (by typing 192.168.0.1 into your browser) and look for the password settings.
WPA is more than strong enough for your home network. WPA2 is designed for enterprise-level users and businesses. Whether you’re at home or at work, WPA and WPA2 are simply the best ways to defend your wireless network.