Now Streaming// by Cameron Teal
You may think this story doesn’t start out very threatening, and I will admit that it’s nerdy; but the reality that it draws attention to is indeed frightening. You will likely be shocked at how exposed you and your neighbors have been without even knowing it. If you don’t protect your network and personal data, you may find Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) beating down your door at 5 a.m in the morning because of someone inappropriately using your router.
Not long ago, in my hoodlum days spent living with a collection of nerdy friends I had acquired throughout my years at university… we frequently enjoyed playing an online computer game. To communicate with each other and those that we would be interacting with online, we used an online program that is similar to a basic chat room, but talking with microphones and headsets rather than writing it out. After an altercation, we were booted from the chat room and our IP address was blocked. To get even, we persisted to take our fully charged wireless laptops for a drive through the local neighborhoods, picking up wireless signals and not leaving the group of gamers to coordinate and play in peace. They would ban the new IP address; we would drive down the street to a new one. We did this for three hours. Waste of time? At the time… no, now… yes. Scary how many people have wireless routers without passwords? Absolutely. It wouldn’t take a 100% accurate background check to find out who the problem was because the problem would be driving down the road after pillaging your internet connection with zero repercussions.
So, shat would stop a focused individual from doing something more illegal than pissing off a few gamers? Now before you say it, I know… I know… you are saying that you have a password on your router, you don’t need to worry; but, that’s where you’re wrong. There is so much more you can do than simply having a password on your wireless router to prevent the possible horrors of identity theft from happening under your name and numbers.
What’s the big deal?
Still not scared? If even the most basic, literate, ill-willed individual (who had access to public computers to Google “How To” pages) could get onto your network they could do things as bad as access sites that would compromise your integrity—child porn on your network, to download pirated music/movies/software that would have a major movie company lawyer soon to be knocking at your door with a federal cease and desist warrant. Any electronics would become their property, and after a monster fine, you would take network security a little more seriously.
It doesn’t have to be something as permanent as changes in your civil records (“individual was cited for viewing child pornography sites”) to see the effects of a poor network security. It wouldn’t take a house next door of bored computer science majors to access your network and steal your internet connection. Poof, your internet speeds decrease and you can’t stream movies, access you’re Cloud music, and social networking would take ages. If your internet provider charges you by the byte then you might be in for an expensive lesson. Like a phone bill, an additional dollar per byte of data adds up in a hurry and you are responsible for it regardless of the fact someone else was stealing your internet.
It’s time to change your router password and name. You can search the internet for an easy means to changing your password to a wireless network, and so can someone who wants your connection all to him/herself. Besides changing your routers default password, you should change its default name. Linksys3000 Default might appear a little obvious for someone looking to access your connection. All a thief would need to do is search the internet for the install and password change directions for your exact modem and router.
Changing your Mac address is equally as important. This has nothing to do with the line of computers, but has everything to do with who can access your computer. Your Mac address is a list of the machines that you allow access to your network. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s ok, but that means that your system is set to default, which means it’s NOT exclusive about who you are allowing inside your network. When you are calibrating your Mac Address, remember to allow your Smartphone and tablets to access your connection, not just your laptop and PC. If you know you are going to have a fantasy football party and everyone is bringing over their computers, turn this option off for the weekend. If you are going to be gone for the weekend or longer, you should unplug your modem and router to both save electricity and omit the off chance someone sneaky is trying to use your network connection for evil purposes.
Update, Update, Update
It’s not enough to stop at the Mac address when securing your network– like a car, your network needs maintenance. Every six months you should double check with the manufacturer’s website to see if the router needs to be upgraded or updated with a free download.
Free extras for added network security
If you wanted to be sure you weren’t having unwanted guests visiting your network, Wireshark (formally Ethreal, is for most platforms), and Cain and Abel (for windows only) are free packet sniffers that scans the traffic of your wireless network for bizarre activity. They also keep an eye on unwanted cookies and network anomalies among many other things.
Tone down your signal strength. While (so far) there is NOT any evidence to suggest that the signal fields and radiation levels of our electronic devices are harmful; that doesn’t mean that you should let your neighbors next door have the option to view your 99 dollar a month connection, ESPECIALLY when you live in a small two bedroom loft below twenty other neighbors. Many, if not all, wireless routers have the option to reduce the range of the signal within the software or even on the back of the device itself. Check with the manufacturer’s standards to see what the best range is for you and keep the router in an open space rather than below a desk, inside the basement.
Network security is as important now as it ever has been. With identity theft reaching epidemic levels, you don’t want your information or the network your information rests on exposed to anyone. By simply changing your default router name and password, staying on top of your routers updates, only allowing your devices onto your network, and keeping your wireless signal to its effective range, you may save yourself more than just a big bill/fine, you may save your reputation and identity.
Categories: Computer and Network Privacy Tips