How to deal with neighbourhood hackers: tips for securing your Wi-Fi

   

WiFi HackingRecently on a local social media group, I have noticed a trend in the “need” to hack wireless networks in order to steal other people’s PAID FOR internet.

Just in case people forgot, this is unethical and illegal. I don’t know what the charges are for hacking in Zimbabwe, so I suggest checking with your lawyer or local law-enforcement officer!

BE that as it may, a lot of us end up being victims of Wi-Fi hackers. But how does one know that their Wi-Fi has been hacked? Well there are a few noticeable things that you can keep an eye out for:

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  • Sudden slow internet speeds
  • High internet bills (if you don’t have uncapped internet)
  • Slow network access (it takes longer for you to connect to your own network than usual)

There are many other ways to track the accessing machines on your network, my favorite is
Angry IP Scanner. This software requires updated Java components. Once you have downloaded and installed this program I suggest you read the user manual so that you can best identify what machines are on your network.

This software scans IP addresses on your network. There are two types of IP addresses;

  • DHCP – Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol
  • STATIC – Manual IP address

The DHCP address is an IP address that is automatically assigned by your internet router and the STATIC address is manually set by yourself or your local IT administrator. It is usually best that you use STATIC IP addresses, especially for those who know how to change their IP’s at will. To do this, take a look here.

Now that you know how to change or set you IP addresses, it’s time to decide if you want to have STATIC or DHCP for your wireless network. It’s usually wiser to leave that set to DHCP, if you are using a laptop you’ll be moving from wireless signal to wireless signal often.
The next step is determining what router you have. The router is the device that connects you to your internet and usually (in most cases) has your wireless antenna. More information can be found here.
In Zimbabwe, from my observations, the Linksys brand is the most widely used brand. What you will need is an Ethernet cable (network cable) to proceed with configuring your wireless. Once you have connected your PC to the router physically you will need to know a few things first;

  • What is the router’s static IP address
  • What is the administrator’s username & password to access the routers onboard software?

Usually most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) change these login details and do not give them to the client. Insist on getting this information from them. Sometimes they do not so you can use the default login credentials. You can find this information by using Google or going directly to the manufacturer’s website.
To gain access to your router you need to know the routers IP address, this info can also be found using the manufacturer’s website. For example your router’s IP address may be 192.168.1.1, using the procedure in the link I added previously, change your onboard Ethernet port to and address similar but not exactly the same i.e. 192.168.1.2, your subnet mask should match exactly the routers, usually 255.255.255.0.
Now open up your regular internet browser, Chrome, Opera, Internet Explorer or my favorite Firefox. In the address bar where you type web addresses, type the IP address of the router i.e. 192.168.1.1 and hit enter. A login window will appear, enter the login credentials you have gleaned from either manufacturer or ISP. For Linksys follow the steps to set up your wireless security provided here.

If you don’t want to fiddle with the router provided by your ISP you can always request that they disable the routers wireless, and purchase your own wireless router which you can connect directly to the ISP provided device using an Ethernet cable.

You will need to change the static IP address of the purchased router so that it can connect to the ISP’s router. To do this read this article from Linksys.

For your wireless security key/password, try using alpha numeric passwords (passwords with small letters and capitals, numbers and punctuation) For example, b3sT9@55W0rD3v@ (that actually reads bestpasswordeva).

Remember that the longer the password/key the harder it is to hack. I would also suggest changing the login details of your router to something only you will know, and also disable login access to the router via Wireless.

Once you have set up and tested your wireless security and it works perfectly, you may also want to set up additional, more advanced security settings.

By following the routers manual you will be able to assign MAC addresses that are allowed to connect to your router, this way prevents other people from joining your network no matter how hard they try. Or you may want to use the internal firewall of the device.

However for these more advanced security measures, I would recommend that you do a lot of research into them and how they operate first, long before you attempt it yourself at home or in your office, especially if you are just a novice at networking.

There are some very trust worthy network techies that are ready, willing and able to come to your house or office to do this for you too. Just as a precaution ensure that they use your computers to do the set ups and configurations, as it is known that there are some unscrupulous techies that will give themselves access to your wireless. It’s a sad, but true fact.

One thing you need to remember when you search for your devices is that the credentials to login are MODEL specific. So knowing the model of your router and model number are important. To find this information, it’s usually marked on the top of the device, or can be found on a sticker on the underside (bottom) of the router.

What other security measures can you suggest for protecting WiFi networks? Please share below.

Mark is a tech and gaming enthusiast. He has experience in hardware maintenance and tech sales. He loves working with computers, horse riding and rugby. He can be e-mailed on markdbfulton@gmail.com


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