Question from Deborah P.: I have a Dlink wireless router connected to my cable modem that I’ve been using for a year or two.
My boyfriend told me I need to put a password on the Wi-Fi connection but I don’t think it’s necessary because I don’t have any neighbors living close by.
I like being able to let guests connect to my network without having to hassle with a password. Do you think it’s ok if I leave it without a password, or is my boyfriend right?
Rick’s answer: I’m afraid I’ll have to agree with your boyfriend on this one, Deborah.
Without password protection/encryption your Wi-Fi connection is open to absolutely anyone who happens to be in close proximity to your house, even someone who just happens to drive by and notice your unsecured wireless network.
I know you said you have no close neighbors, but hackers love to target isolated houses with Wi-Fi connections because they can just pull over to the side of the road, connect to your network, then do whatever they want to do on the Internet. And the things that many of them want to do are very illegal.
For example, unsecured Wi-Fi connections are especially useful to people who are into child pornography. Why? Because when the police try to track them down by IP address they’ll end up at the house of the owner of the unsecured Wi-Fi connection instead of the perpetrator’s.
And if someone uses your Wi-Fi connection to download that garbage it’ll be you who’ll get a knock on your door, not the perp!
There is another important reason to secure your network with a password as well. Everything you send over an open Wi-Fi connection that isn’t encrypted by your web browser can be read by anyone with a laptop equipped with “sniffer” software.
That means all of your emails and instant messages as well as your unencrypted usernames and passwords are free for the taking by that guy who appears to be waiting in his car for AAA to show up and tow him to the nearest auto repair shop.
I hope by now I have convinced you of the need to secure your Wi-Fi connection with a password. If so, here are a few tips:
1 – Secure your Wi-Fi connection with the strongest encryption method that’s supported by your router. If your router doesn’t support the latest encryption methods I recommend replacing it with a newer model that does.
2 – Use a strong password that is difficult to break. Short passwords consisting of common names or words can be broken in seconds by an experienced hacker with the right tools (and they ALL have the right tools because they are readily available on the Internet).
3 – Change the name of your Wi-Fi network (some routers use the term ‘SSID’ instead of ‘network name’).
The default network name that comes pre-programmed into most routers’ firmware usually identifies the brand of router you’re using – a very handy piece of information for a hacker. Unlike the password, you can use anything you want for the network name since it doesn’t really need to be kept a secret.
I hope this helps Deborah. Good luck!
Bonus tip: This post explains what to try first when your computer or Wi-Fi devices can’t connect to the Internet.
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