Secure Your Wireless Network

computer-security-guide-cover-2nd-ed

4-Step Computer Security Upgrade

Learn to encrypt your files, secure your computer when using public Wi-Fi, enable two-factor authentication, and use good passwords.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/darwinbell/522032651

A few weeks ago I wrote out the perils of using an open wi-fi network at a coffee shop. A readily available Firefox extension allows other network users to literally hijack your Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Not only should you lock your work and home wireless, you should also download a new extension that will help secure coffee shop browsing.

Lock it down with a password

If you use a wireless router at your office make sure it is password protected. Most routers come with decent instructions on how to setup a password. If you cannot figure it out, ask another lawyer, a friend, or even call the Geek Squad from Best Buy.

When choosing a password, please choose something tricker than the name of your firm; otherwise you are right back at square one.

If you are especially paranoid about wireless security, you can also use old-fashioned ethernet cables to connect to the internet, which avoids the wireless conundrum altogether.

Install Blacksheep to help secure your laptop

The easiest way to avoid getting hacked on the coffee shop’s open wireless network is not use the network. That aside, you can get an extension that will help detect when someone is attempting to hack your social media accounts.

Firesheep is the Firefox extension that allows a user to easily hijack your Twitter or Facebook account on an open wireless network. Thankfully, a new Firefox extension called Blacksheep can detect when Firesheep is in use. Blacksheep does not actually detect Firesheep, but it can detect typical Firesheep requests to websites—which can be just as effective.

Blacksheep, like Firesheep, is free and is also an extension for Firefox browsers.

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  • Tim Baran

    Very helpful, thanks. Shortly after the Firesheep extension surfaced I experienced an attack while working at a Starbucks. Glad I knew about this as I was able to quickly delete cookies, etc, shut down the browser and run a virus/spyware scan.

    I’m exploring the option of getting rid of my cable internet access at home and subscribing to a service like CLEAR where I can take my secure network on the road. Would love to see a discussion of available options here.

  • In addition to password strength, the wi-fi network encryption type is also important.

    For some reason many routers still come set up to use the old WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) standard as the default — no matter how good your password is, this level of encryption can be cracked in seconds by even a weak computer. It’s been deprecated by the IEEE because it’s inherently insecure.

    Ideally your network should be set to use 802.11i encryption, also known as WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access, Revision 2). If hardware compatibility is an issue, at the very least your wi-fi network should be set to WPA.

    I pulled together some other tips on locking down our digital personal/firm identities at http://www.lawdevnull.com/2010/07/tdots-tips-tighten-up-your-digital-life/ — hope it helps :)

  • @TDot – much appreciated—the majority of them are easy implement regardless of tech savvy.