We all love the freedom Wi-Fi grants us. No longer are we tethered to our desks. It offers fast speeds considering the untethered nature of it. However, a significant number of people do not see a need to secure their connections.  Granted, most unauthorized use of your Wi-Fi will be to check email and such, but consider this snippet from Comcast.net’s usage policy:

In addition to being responsible for your own compliance with this Policy, you are also responsible for any use or misuse of the Service that violates this Policy, even if it was committed by a friend, family member, or guest with access to your Service account. Therefore, you must take steps to ensure that others do not use your account to gain unauthorized access to the Service by, for example, strictly maintaining the confidentiality of your Service login and password. In all cases, you are solely responsible for the security of any device you choose to connect to the Service, including any data stored or shared on that device. Comcast recommends against enabling file or printer sharing unless you do so in strict compliance with all security recommendations and features provided by Comcast and the manufacturer of the applicable file or printer sharing devices. Any files or devices you choose to make available for shared access on a home LAN, for example, should be protected with a strong password or as otherwise appropriate.

While this is just one example, ISPs across the nation have clauses such as this one. Imagine for a moment, someone hacks a bank while sitting in your driveway. Law enforcement officials will of course try and figure out who did it. They’ll trace the connection and determine it came from a certain IP address, and your ISP will check the logs and tell them it was you. If they can’t trace past that, the natural suspect is you. While you may not be found guilty in a court of law, it’s an inconvenience at the very least. Time and money will have been wasted. Why even chance it when all it takes is a simple password to solve this issue?

There are two things you can do to secure your network

  1. WEP or WPA2 password – This is the most basic line of defense. Basically, using a password, you encrypt all data moving between your computer and your router or access point. Anyone without this information gets back gibberish that has no value. In addition, if you make purchases online using unsecured Wi-Fi, your credit card number can be sniffed out by someone skilled enough.
  2. MAC address filtering – This method is a bit trickier and not for beginners, but it isn’t difficult. What you basically do is get your computer’s MAC address (which is a unique serial number for the network card in your computer) and tell the access point that, even though a device has the password, ALL devices have to be on a white list to connect. This provides an extra barrier to someone penetrating your network. It has a slight snag though. Friends and family can’t just connect with the password, you have to authorize them as well. Most routers and access points can do this as well.

It isn’t hard to secure a network, but some people refuse to, citing things like “the internet should be free to everyone”. Just remember, it’s your name on that contract with your ISP and potentially your neck in the sling should your internet be misused. Why take the chance?

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