By Terry Currier
If you want to find out how to make your wireless network secure, you could go to Google and put in “instructions to secure wireless.” I got 23,300,000 instants with web sites that tell you how to set up your wireless network. There are very good sites with detailed instructions on how to do it. In fact the very first one is a Microsoft site telling how to set up Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) security.
A reminder even if you have a Ethernet network, everyone should change their workgroup name. For security, you should change it from the default (MSHOME) and not make it too easy for the hackers. To change the workgroup name in Windows XP, go to Control Panel and then System. Click on the Computer Name tab and then click Change. Under Member of Workgroup type in a new name.
Following the advice of the web sites will make your wireless networks more secure. However, there are more things you can do. In an article on ZDnet http://blogs.zdnet.com/Ou/index.php?p=43 by George Ou wrote about The six dumbest ways to secure a wireless LAN.
Dishonorable mention went to WEP as only taking a few minutes to break.
Again using Google you can find web sites that actually list the latest vulnerabilities. I found one that even listed vulnerable programs names and web sites. Want to see something scary? Take a look at a war drive in the Los Angeles area - http://pasadena.net/apmap/losangeleslarge.gif. The red spots are open hot Wi-Fi. The author noted that less than half had even WEP enabled.
The use of a Wi-Fi Protected Access(WPA) is much better, but not perfect. It was reported in November 2004 that a WPA Cracker Tool was developed. The data is retrieved via a packet sniffer entered into the program and using a dictionary word based passphrases it runs the cracking algorithms. The more random your characters are for the WPA preshared key, the safer it is to use. In simple terms use letters and numbers, not logical words.
The simplest answer of all is to use LucidLink from Interlink. Two reasons people do not set up protection is because they don’t know it is needed, and they can not figure out how to do it.
Once installed on a Windows 2000, 2003 or XP computer acting as a network server it is very simple to use. The administrator has to set up the access or router control from a pull down list featuring a list of compatible units.
The hardest part of the install was putting in an IP address for the D-Link Access Point. I knew how to get one, but what about a beginner? Someone who still needs that protection, but does not know how to get an IP address. In talking to the company they said their next version will come with a IP finder program. It will suggest an IP which you can just plug in. They will also be putting in something on the toolbar for you to click on to check for updates.
You will then need to install the client part onto the wireless computer you want to log onto the network with. That wireless computer when trying to log onto the network is stopped from fully getting in. They are given a authorization code. Then the person communicates to the administrator the code and the user is authorized, or denied entry. If a person leaves employment or the laptop is stolen, the administer can click De-Authorize next to the user name on the Management Console. It reminded me of the electronic entry doors you often seen in banks. They can see who wants to get in, and if the person is not suppose to get in, they can not.
I was working with the server version of LucidLink which is available in 10, 25, 50, 100, and 250 user versions starting at $449. The home version for three users is/was $99. They have decided to release the home version out for free. Now there is no excuse for not securing your wireless network. I would not hesitate to recommend someone this product. You may not need the server version, but if you have a wireless network at home you really should get the free download.
Testing was done on a Linksys router connected to a D-Link DWL-2100 AP (Access Point.) I used a D-Link, ActionTec, and Buffalo PCMCIA wireless cards (with two notebooks.) I also had a wireless built in my HP notebook. All of them could not get through without authorization, but after authorization no problem.
Windows 2000, 2003, or XP operating system
50MB of hard drive space
Administration rights on the installed computer
Every machine that you want to connect to the wireless network must be set up as a LucidLink Client. Those computers must have:
36 MB available hard disk space
Windows 2000 or Windows XP (Professional or Home) operating system
Wireless NIC that supports 802.1X/EAP
The following hardware is compatible with LucidLink
Access Point / Router
3COM Office Connect 11abg
3COM Office Connect 11g
From our June 2005 newsletter
Update - Interlink has merged with WiTopia so the free LucidLink is no longer available.
Winners is a member of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG) is an international, platform-independent, nonprofit corporation (incorporated in Washington, DC) devoted to helping user groups throughout the world. Almost 400 user groups are members of APCUG. http://www.apcug.net/