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BITS & BYTES: Should I Use Secure Wireless?

By Staff | Sep 2, 2010

Are you using insecure wireless? Do you know if it’s secure? Do you think that password protected wireless is secure? Do you know what provides security to a wireless environment? Why would you care if your wireless connection is secure?

We all read about the threats that exist through our use of the Internet, but I would guess that most people think it won’t happen to them. That’s incorrect. Even the most casual user is highly susceptible to having their private and personal information stolen right off their computer. Your wireless environment plays a critical role in the security of your information.

We have addressed this issue in past articles, but with the heightened security risks existing today and the more cost effective methods to mitigate these threats, this topic remains important.

Many people perform limited tasks on the Internet. But if you have an insecure wireless setup and you purchase anything online using your credit card, if you do any banking online, if you fill in forms with any personal information like your name and address online, if you look for prior classmates through those search web sites, etc. your identity and personal information is highly vulnerable.

Don’t make the mistake of believing that a password protects your network. It doesn’t. It only takes a few minutes for a person or an automatic software program to get around the wireless password and gain full access to your personal passwords, emails, financial data and anything else you do on the Internet. It is even possible for a wireless aware virus to break into an insecure network and install itself onto your computer.

The way to protect your information and still have the freedom of a wireless environment, is to install a secure wireless system. Just a few months ago, the cost of a secure product may have deterred you from going the secure route. Now you have more choices at various price points that will deliver a secure wireless solution. Companies providing wireless access points have come to understand that everyone needs protection and they have developed products that can now meet the needs of basic residential and small business users at a fraction of the cost of previously available products.

The wireless access point that provides the security you need has a feature called EAP w/CCMP encryption. EAP w/CCMP encryption (except EAP-LEAP) security is special. It uses an authentication system and constantly rotating keys that, for all practical purposes, make it impossible for unauthorized users to gain access to a network.

Identity and personal information theft is a very real threat today. Much of it happens because of insecure wireless networks. A wired network is secure, but if you choose to use a wireless network be sure your wireless access point uses EAP authentication and that it is configured to utilize all the protective features.

(Bits & Bytes is a computer troubleshooting advice column provided by Zebis, a single point of contact managed service provider located on Sanibel serving clients worldwide.)