Wireless Networking Tips and Security

(Updated 2012-07-09)

How do I hookup my laptop to access the Internet from anywhere in the house?

A  wireless access point (WAP) is the device which allows you to access your network or the Internet without using a cable.  It usually has added wireless capability in addition to the standard hardware router/firewalls we geeks recommend.

If you laptop is quite recent wireless capability may be built in.  Or there may be a special slot available to use a built in antennae.   Older laptops will require a PCMCIA card or a USB port device.  A USB port device will be an additional cable to concern yourself with.  Whereas the PCMCIA card will have a small external portions or antennae.

You can also purchase a PCI card for your desktop computers.  However where ever feasible I run a cable.

Note though that some areas in your house may have poor coverage.  It is a low strength radio system after all.


Most consumer level wireless access points (WAPs) security, even using 128 bit WEP, can be broken in a few hours by someone analyzing the radio traffic.  Yes, you can add MAC address filtering but some network cards allow you to change your MAC address.

Most consumer level WAPs aren't even secured.  Anyone within the 100' to 300' range can use your connection to view whatever sites they wish or send emails to whomever they wish which could be traced back to you.  Folks who go looking for these open WAPs report that less than a third are secured.   So many people are very vulnerable to this kind of attack.  A fellow MVP reported finding 16 open WAPs when she visited her mothers condo complex.  See Beware roving hackers, networkers warned. Recent arrest underlines systems' vulnerability. Owners could find themselves accused of crimes and Half-naked driver faces Net charge

Some newer WAPs, particularly many of the 54Mbps Wireless-G WAPs, are coming with much more robust security features now built in.   The key words to watch out for are "802.1x authentication" and "Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA)". Examples of such products are SMC MC2804WBR,  D-Link 802.11g DI-624 Xtreme G, Microsoft MN-700 Wireless Base Station and US Robotics 802.11g Wireless Turbo Router

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