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How to secure your wireless router

Wi-Fi routers can give you enough headaches without worrying if someone is leeching off your connection. You pay for that bandwidth you receive every month, and with so many movies to stream, games to play, and work to remotely connect to, you don't want to share your Internet pipe.

Not only can having others access your router slow down your connection, and use up your data allowance, there’s also the possibility they might get you into some legal hot water – by downloading pirated material, or worse. Last year, over in the U.S. a man was falsely arrested on child pornography charges. It later emerged that a neighbour had used the innocent man's connection to download the odious content.

While a false arrest is an extreme case, having unauthorised users on your connection clearly poses a security risk. Here are a few methods you can use to keep the leeches off your router.

Password encryption

By now, anyone who owns a wireless router should be aware of password encryption as an essential basic element. Never leave your router open without a password, and there are very few reasons for the average home and small business user to not encrypt the wireless signal with WPA2 security.

Turn off SSID broadcasting

You can turn off broadcasting in just about all routers. For example, you name your network "Jane's Wi-Fi." You know what the wireless name is (also called the SSID), so you can easily enter the SSID into any devices you want to access that network. Other people, however, do not need to know the SSID. To prevent outsiders from seeing your network's name turn off broadcasting in your router's settings. This capability is typically found within the wireless router settings page in the router's management software. In the below image the "Enable SSID Broadcast" option would be unchecked, so that your network's name does not show up in other people's wireless network scans.

Disable guest networks

Many routers now ship with an extra wireless network configured for guests to access your router. A guest network lets guests share your Internet connection without giving them access to shared files and devices on your private network. Guest networking is often used by businesses to provide customers courtesy access, but I recommend home users turn it off. Guest network passwords are sometimes configured with no security, or default passwords that anyone can easily look up on Google if they know the kind of router you have. So, the best policy is just to turn this off.

MAC Filtering

MAC Filtering is a feature also found in most routers. You add the MAC address (a unique identifier for that unit) of any device you want to give access to the router into the filtering list. Any device not on the list that tries to connect will be blocked from accessing.

Monitor your network

Installing a network monitoring app such as Fing is also a good idea. Fing will scan your network and provide information that you can use to see if you have any unwanted users or devices on your network. Fing will examine your network and report information such as hostnames, IP addresses, MAC addresses, and more. If there is any information you don't recognise, you can investigate further and find out if someone or something is on your network that shouldn't be.