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How to secure your Internet connection

Although Internet connections are becoming more convenient for consumers, they’re also becoming more inviting to hackers. For instance, a wireless network, which allows you to access the Internet virtually anywhere in your home, also may be accessed by neighbors or even hackers, unless it’s secured. Understanding how to secure your Internet connection will help protect your personal documents and prevent identity theft. Follow these easy steps to secure your connection now.

Woman with wireless connectionStep 1: Carefully position your router or access point

WiFi signals can’t detect where your home begins and ends. To reduce WiFi signal leakage, position your router or access point in the center of your home instead of near windows or doors. If you live in an apartment, you may consider mounting your WiFi in a closet to reduce signal strength.

Step 2: Change passwords, usernames, and IDs

When you’re first setting up your wireless router or access point, be sure to change the default administrator password and default system ID, or SSID (service set identifier). While you’re at it, go ahead and do the same for all your hardware and software. Pick a unique password that doesn’t include your name, birth date, or pet’s name. Select a combination of upper and lower case letters and numbers.

Step 3: Turn off SSID broadcast

Though broadcasting is essential for businesses and mobile hotspots to let people easily locate a network, it usually isn’t necessary at home. Turning off the SSID broadcast makes your connection invisible to neighbors. Check your manual for instructions on how to disable this feature.

Step 4: Enable WPA encryption

Protect your WiFi network by upgrading to WPA (WiFi protected access) or WPA2 encryption. The older encryption standard, WEP (wired equivalent privacy) may be easily hacked. Be sure to update your computer first to ensure it can support WPA encryption.

Step 5: Disable remote administration

Many WLAN (wireless local area network) routers may be administered remotely online. Unless you absolutely need this capability, it’s best to keep remote administration turned off. If you don’t, just about anyone may potentially find and access your router.

Step 6: Use MAC address filtering

Though this step doesn’t offer guaranteed security, it does offer another line of defense to help protect your computer. Manually key in 12 character MAC (media access control) addresses of your home equipment into your router or access point to ensure neighbors aren’t tapping into your network.

Step 7: Install a PC firewall and anti-virus software

A firewall is software or hardware that helps protect your computer from hackers and viruses when connected to the Internet. Anti-virus software identifies and eliminates viruses before they infect your computer. Remember to keep anti-virus software and patches current to ensure effectiveness.

Step 8: Turn off your network when it’s not in use

A WiFi connection is vulnerable when it’s on, so it’s important to turn it off when you’re not using it for extended periods of time.

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