Why Protecting Your Wireless Security Should Begin at Home

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Unless you lead a sheltered life, you’ve undoubtedly heard that revealing sensitive information while you’re logged into Wifi hotspots is like playing Russian Roulette with your identity. But what you may not know is that, increasingly, home wireless networks are being targeted by hackers.

The explosive growth in home Wifi hacking is happening for a couple of reasons. From shopping and social networking to banking and trading stocks, home Wifi users are conducting more activities and keeping more personal information online. That means it’s easier for hackers to gain access to sensitive information that’s stored on their home computers. There’s also been a proliferation of hacking tools for the masses. That means pretty much anyone who wants to can pursue a life of cybercrime without much risk of getting caught. If you still think your wireless security isn’t an issue in your own home, think again.

Home Hacking Horror Stories: Your Wireless Security is at Risk

When About.com asked its readers to write in with hacking stories of their own, the responses revealed there’s no place like home for hackers.

One home Wifi hacking victim wrote that a teen hacker whose identity he knew had compromised his family’s online accounts, stealing their passwords, personal information and their IP address. As a result, they were shut out of their own accounts. Another victim wrote that he had been hacked for three years and was unable to access his router online to change his SSID, passwords and settings. “Nothing so far has been able to prevent it,” At End of My Rope wrote. A third victim wrote About.com that her wireless modem wasn’t set up properly when it was installed. So it essentially became a free connection that someone was using to illegally download DVDs. “I was freaked out that someone had broken into my home,” she wrote.

That home Wifi hacking victim’s story was echoed by a Canadian college student named Amber Hunter. In 2011, the Montreal Gazette reported that Hunter was billed more than $1800 by her wireless service provider due to the unauthorized use of her password protected wireless network. According to the newspaper, Hunter had to use her savings to pay her whopping wireless bill. Out of desperation, she disconnected her wireless network and began using a long cable to connect to the Internet.

It gets even worse. Last year, the Associated Press reported that the FBI, armed with assault weapons, raided a Buffalo man’s home, accusing him of downloading thousands of images of child pornography the night before. According to AP, the man told the FBI that he’d given up trying to set up a new password for his wireless router. He said someone must have used his Internet connection to commit the crime.

If these home Wifi hacking stories sound extreme, consider this: A 2011
poll conducted for the Wi-Fi Alliance found that 32% of 1054 Americans 18 and older acknowledged trying to access a Wi-Fi network that wasn’t theirs.

Could one of those wireless networks be yours? Without strong security measures in place, you could be leaving your home Wifi network wide open to hackers.

Take Responsibility for Your Home Wireless Security

∙ Make sure your firewall is turned on and your virus and malware protection are up-to-date. Run scans frequently.

∙ Change the default wireless network name and the administrative password. Network devices generally come with default names and passwords which are easy for hackers to find online. Use unique passwords composed of 8 to 20 upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols that are difficult to guess.

∙ Use WPA2 encryption instead of WEP, which hackers can crack in a matter of minutes.

∙ Keep your operating system up to date with the latest security enhancements from the manufacturer.

∙ Don’t click the “remember me” prompt that allows you to automatically log in the next time you visit a website. Hackers can obtain that information and use it to access your email and financial accounts.

∙ Disable the SSID broadcast option which allows anyone to access your wireless network. This will prevent simple attacks, but not attacks by sophisticated hackers.

∙ Turn off your Wifi connection when you’re not using it.

∙ Use a wireless VPN like PRIVATE WiFi™ to encrypt the data traveling to and from your computer. That makes invisible to hackers. And what hackers can’t see, hackers can’t steal.

Have you been hacked on home Wifi? If you have, drop us a line and share your story. We’d like to hear what happened to you and what you did about it.

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