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Wi-Fi Advances You Should Know About

Wi-Fi networks need periodic configuration changes to stay secure.

There are projected to be 2 billion Wi-Fi devices in the hands of consumers within the next two years. As with any technology, Wi-Fi has evolved pretty quickly. Thankfully, there has always been a focus on backwards compatibility. That means all of our older devices are still able to communicate with our newer devices.

Unfortunately, that can allow us to be lax about keeping up with the changes. For instance, most equipment supports the WEP type of "password" which can be figured out by anybody with 10 minutes and a laptop. Some very old equipment doesn't support the newer password mechanisms, but most of that equipment has already found itself in the trash.

While a security flaw of that magnitude may not have avoided your notice, there are some subtle changes that can be made to increase the performance of your wireless network. Under certain circumstances, updating your router configuration can improve not only the speed with which your devices communicate with each other, but even increase the Internet speed of the devices.

Recently, I started keeping track of how the various Wi-Fi networks I encountered were configured with my phone. I found that nearly 75 percent of the networks were either completely insecured or secured with a compromised password mechanism. Of those that used no encryption, and were truly open networks, over 30 percent used the default router passwords. 

If you find yourself lost, and need a pro to secure your router, don't worry. It isn't necessary in most cases for a technician to have to come to the house. Most changes can be made remotely and quickly, meaning instead of a $100 service call, you can usually get away with whatever the shop minimum is. (I charge $25 for a half hour of remote support.)

Chris Buckley is a blogger for Burnsville Patch and the owner of Buds & Bytes, a shop that offers both floral and computer services.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Chris Buckley May 23, 2012 at 02:26 PM
While I wrote "but most of that equipment has already found itself in the trash" I don't want to encourage anyone to throw away your old electronics in the regular trash. They often contain some pretty nasty stuff that we don't want in landfills. Many stores, including ours, have a program where electronics of the type they sell can be responsibly disposed of for free.
Clare Kennedy May 23, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Thanks for that addendum Chris. While I have you here, what are the risks of having an insecure Wi-Fi network (other than the neighbors using your signal)?
Chris Buckley May 23, 2012 at 10:32 PM
It can also leave you open to other avenues of attack. Any insecure traffic can be monitored, meaning e-mail and web site passwords can often be determined by other listening users. (Credit card transactions are subject to additional encryption provided by the merchant, so those aren't at risk from this type of attack.) But beware- even something as simple as neighbors using your connection can have major consequences. In 2010, an Apple Valley woman received a visit from the secret service due to threats made online using her Internet connection, and I have had countless clients receive repremand letters for music and movie sharing using their Wi-Fi.
Clare Kennedy May 24, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Wow! I will keep that in mind. Thanks for the additional information.
yomammy April 09, 2013 at 12:03 PM
my wifi network is totally insecure...wont even look me in the eye....
yomammy April 09, 2013 at 12:05 PM
its simple people---if you dont have your wireless "secured"...someone has/is/will be using your internet.
Mark Lenthen May 24, 2013 at 11:24 PM
Its crazy that more people don't know about this issue. One of the best kinds of software for wireless security is http://www.wifisugar.com

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