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Wireless Network Protection

These days more and more households and businesses are using wireless connections to access the internet. Wireless networks are a great convenience. No longer are you restricted by the length of your ethernet cable. The problem is, this convenience comes with a price.

Whereas a wired network restricts who can connect to it by requiring a hardwired connection into a router, switch or ethernet jack, a wireless connection allows connectivity to anyone within range of the wireless signal. This then allows someone to connect to your network and use your bandwidth for their own purposes, infecting your network with viruses, and possibly access to anything being shared over the network.

One of the problems in having someone using your internet connection is that you could find yourself receiving copyright infringement notices for illegally sharing music, movies or other files. And the activity could be a lot worse than that.

It is becoming increasingly important to keep your wireless connection secured. The main way to protect your wireless network is to turn on encryption. While there are a couple different forms of encryption, the idea behind them is the same. Using an unsecured wireless network is like leaving your front door unlocked. Anyone can just walk in. Adding encryption to your connection is like locking the door. It then requires a key to open it.

Encryption is enabled on the wireless router. You would need to check your router documentation for specific instructions, but basically you can access your router through a web browser, such as Firefox or Internet Explorer, on a PC that is already connected to your network. Once it is turned on and a key is setup, any wireless device must then have that key entered in. Usually when trying to connect to the network wirelessly, it will prompt you for the key the first time and will then save it for any further connections made later on. Any PC that is connected to the router with an ethernet cable will not need the key as it obviously is not making a wireless connection.

There are two main types of encryption. The first and probably most commonly used is WEP (Wired Equivalency Privacy). Most devices will be able to connect to a network using WEP encryption; however, WEP is not overly secure and can be bypassed with some effort. Having said that, using WEP is much better than not using any encryption at all.

The second type of encryption is known as WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) and is much more secure and harder to break into than WEP. While not as widely supported among older systems as WEP, it can still be used by many PCs and other wireless devices.

It is best to consult the documentation of any wireless routers and adapters to see what types of encryption they support.

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