The today’s level of technology does not require the user to be tied to a fixed access point, which is convenient, yet, on the other hand, jeopardizes security of information, because the wireless connection is rightly considered to be almost the most vulnerable. However, one can solve this problem through a proper setup of Wi-Fi network security and use of VPN, which can significantly increase the level of protection.
Methods to protect Wi-Fi networks can be divided into two categories: those provided by the router, and those independent from hardware. The latter include the use of VPN connection. It should be noted that the network itself is of no value to hackers, and therefore may be of interest only to those looking for free internet access. But it can help organize interception of data and use of the information stored on the network-connected computers.
It is worth noting that using only a password as a sole method of protection is not quite enough to restrict the access to your network. Password is hardly enough to even protect the network from your neighbors. There are many ways to hack your network password, and since the simplest password combinations are, oddly enough, more common than the complex ones, one can simply bruteforce them. That’s why it is worth spending the time to make your Wi-Fi network well protected, rather than relying on a set of characters.
The first must-do thing is to limit the broadcasting range of the router. Most models offer this option, and you should make use of it. This will efficiently restrict the access by unauthorized individuals, because, provided this feature is properly configured, they will have to go inside your apartment or office to get physical access to your network. However, this also does not guarantee absolute protection against hacking.
Another important step is to change the default SSID. It does not guarantee any protection, but it can seriously complicate the search for the right network to hack and hinder the hackers from learning the information about the devices being used. SSID (Service Set Identifier) is a special code that provides for identification of data being transmitted. Users often use it as the name of the network, thus to go unnoticed by the hacker it would be logical to replace it with something not associated with the personality of the owner or the name of the company.
Encryption significantly increases the level of protection of transmitted data. There are three technologies used for encryption: WEP, WPA and WPA2. The first two are considered to be obsolete and unsafe, while WEP today does not guarantee any protection at all. Thus, WPA2 is the best option; moreover, encryption keys should be changed on regular basis to eliminate the chance of potential bruteforce. Long-term surveillance and analysis of the information gathered eventually will let one breach the security of the network.
One should also create a list of MAC-addresses to be granted the access, and disable dynamic assignment of IPs to connected devices. After that the assigned addresses should be added to the ARP-tables to grant the right to access the network.
And do not forget about the password! A perfect combination must include the maximum number of random miscellaneous characters: numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters, special characters. For example, instead of «password» it is better to use «p@55w0Rd». The more characters, the better.
All the above methods are quite reliable, but they do not guarantee absolute protection against your Wi-Fi network being hacked and data intercepted. Sooner or later, an experienced hacker will find a way to connect and learn, for example, your electronic payments data, which may result in a loss of money from your accounts. To avoid this, the transmitted data needs some additional protection. There are many different ways to implement it, including using a VPN connection over the WPA2 encrypted channel. This option is probably the best one because it does not require significant financial investments, special skills or heavy-duty equipment. VPN can be used successfully even on the weak computers often used in the offices.
VPN is an additional section on the way of the transmitted data where such data is encrypted. In essence, this means that the packages before getting to the "big Internet" are transformed into fragments of code incomprehensible to anybody but the holders of the key, thus guaranteeing confidentiality even if intercepted. Therefore, any data even when transmitted via Wi-Fi networks is protected from being used by any third parties.
Aside from providing for the sufficient level of information security at home or in the office, VPN can also be useful in other cases. Since this is a cross-platform technology, it can be equally effective on laptops, smartphones and tablet PCs, thus ensuring safe use of the Internet during business trips or vacations. It is no secret that public Wi-Fi networks do not provide for any protection of the transmitted data whatsoever. Therefore, many people use them only for emergency search of needed information, because even your social networks accounts and e-mail are at risk of being compromised in such circumstances.
A secure VPN connection gives you the chance to take full advantage of Wi-Fi networks in the hotels, airports, train stations or coffee shops without the fear of data interception. With VPN the user does not have to jeopardize the information security.