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Six Ways To Protect Your Wireless Network

It doesn't take a whole lot of work -- or any extra money -- to make your network secure. Follow these steps, and you'll go a long way to keeping

Got a wireless network at home or your small business? The odds are that it's insecure. And that means that it's wide open to hackers, war drivers, or anyone else passing by.

But it doesn't take a whole lot of work -- or any extra money -- to make your network secure. Follow these steps, and you'll go a long way to keeping your network, PCs, and data safe.

Step 1 -- Hide Your Network's SSID, And Stop Broadcasting It

Computers on your network connect in a kind of two-way conversation. Your network router constantly sends out its name, known as its SSID (service set identifier). Your wirelessly equipped PCs see that SSID, and then connect to the router by using the SSID name. So if someone knows your SSID, it makes it easier to connect to your router.

When you buy a wireless router, it comes with a default SSID. That default SSID is the same for the thousands, or millions, of routers the manufacturer makes. So a would-be intruder can search for networks with a few common default SSIDs from the major manufacturers, and quickly find wireless networks. So a good line of defense is to change your network's SSID from the default to a unique name that others can't guess. By itself this isn't a great defense, because most war driving software will automatically find the SSIDs of any nearby networks. And Windows XP will automatically do the same thing. So you need to do more than just change the name. You also need to tell your network to stop broadcasting its SSID. Now only someone who knows the name will be able to connect to it.

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