Wireless networks have revolutionised the way we work, both in the office, offsite or at home, and when out and about. This page deals with office and home Wi-Fi networks rather than public Wi-Fi / hotspots, which are covered elsewhere on this website. Wireless networks generally make it easier than with wired connections, to use the internet, send and receive email and access company networks from any room in the building and even outside… and enable visitors to do likewise.

Office and home Wi-Fi use the same technology (802.11). There are some common potential issues, whilst each has its own particular risks. You can protect yourself easily with a few simple precautions.

The risks

If your wireless hub/router is not secured, unauthorised / unknown persons or organisations can easily gain access to it if they are within range. This can result in the following:

  • Confidential or sensitive information that you may be sending or receiving online being intercepted, resulting in a variety of serious consequences.
  • Your bandwidth being taken up – affecting the online speed of your own computers and other devices.
  • Your download allowance being used, for which you have paid your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
  • Downloading inappropriate material, which would be traced to your address and not that of the user of the offending device.

Safe wireless networking

  • All of the above risks can be avoided simply by ensuring that your wireless hub/router is secured. To check that this is the case, simply search for available wireless networks, and those that are secured will be indicated with a padlock symbol.
  • When you first connect a computer, smartphone, tablet, printer or any other wireless-enabled device to any wireless hub/router, you will be prompted to enter a password/key, provided the network is in secure mode. This will enable the device to connect on this occasion and normally, for future use. For security reasons, you should change he password/key to one of your own choice before using the Wi-Fi for any communications or transactions of a confidential nature.
  • If you are setting up a new hub/router, it will probably have been supplied with security turned on as the default. There are three main encryption levels available (WEP, WPA and WPA2), WPA2 being the highest. Most hubs/routers give you the option of selecting a higher level, but remember that some older devices may not be compatible with higher levels.
  • If for any reason a home/office/mobile wireless hub/router/dongle you wish to connect to is not secured, consult the user manual.
  • Ensure you have effective and updated internet security software and firewall running before you connect to a wireless network.
  • Keep Wi-Fi codes safe so that individuals not authorised to connect cannot do so.
  • Remember that the access code is usually printed on the hub/router, so take care to either remove it, or make the hub/router itself inaccessible in the event of an intrusion or people you do not know on the premises.