How to Secure Your Wireless Router

by Josh Fredman
    Intruders can tap into unsecured wireless networks.

    Intruders can tap into unsecured wireless networks.

    Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

    Securing your wireless network matters. It makes it harder for criminals to steal your personal information. It stops freeloaders from using up your bandwidth, which could slow down your own activities. It also stops unscrupulous people from using your network to download or upload illegal materials. Most wireless modems and routers today come with the security enabled by default, but you can also activate or configure the security yourself. Before you can access your router's admin panel, you must determine your internal IP address.

    Find Your Internal IP Address

    Step 1

    Try 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1 first. If neither works, check the user manual for your modem or router, or click the Windows Start button and select "Control Panel" from the Start Menu.

    Step 2

    Click "View Network Status and Tasks" under "Network and Internet." To the right of the displayed network map, click "See Full Map."

    Step 3

    Hover your mouse over the icon representing your network -- the device in between your computer and the Internet -- on the full network map page. Note the part that says "IPV4 Address" in the mouse-over text. It is a sequence of four numbers connected by dots. This is your internal IP address.

    Configure Your Router

    Step 1

    Open your Web browser and enter your internal IP address into the address bar. Make sure to include the periods between the numbers, and don’t type any spaces. Press "Enter" to open the control panel page for your router.

    Step 2

    Find the Settings or Advanced Settings section in the control panel. Look for a field called SSID, which is your network’s name. Change it to a name of your own choosing, and write it down in a safe, accessible location. Try to keep it to a single word or string of characters. Avoid using spaces.

    Step 3

    Find the Security or Network Password section in the control panel. First, check to see whether your network has WPS or Wi-Fi Protected Setup turned on. A lot of newer hardware has this activated by default, to protect users who never change their network security settings. If WPS is enabled, switch to the "Manual" option.

    Step 4

    Look for the network security options, such as WEP and WPA -- possibly in a drop-down menu. Select "WPA Version 2" if it is available to you, or the older "WPA" otherwise. Note that you might see WPA Version 2 written as WPA2, or less commonly RSN, IEEE 802.11i-2004 or 802.11i. If you see an additional WPA2 option that says “WPA2-PSK,” choose that one instead of the basic WPA2 to provide additional security and flexibility. If you don’t have any WPA2 options, but there is a "WPA-PSK" option, go with that one over the basic WPA option.

    Step 5

    Create a new network key or password for your security protocol. Use a combination of numbers, uppercase letters and lowercase letters. For WPA2, make it at least 20 characters long and preferably longer. Write down the password for later reference, making sure to correctly note the uppercase or lowercase letters.

    Step 6

    Save your modifications and exit the network control panel. Reboot your computer and any other devices connected to your network.

    Tips

    • The look and feel of the control panel differs depending on the make and model of your hardware, so check the user manual for exact instructions. If you don’t have the paper copy anymore, check the manufacturer's website.
    • In the SSID settings area you may see an option to not broadcast your SSID. That might sound like a good idea, but don’t bother with it. Any serious criminal will know how to find out your network’s name, and keeping it private just causes a hassle for legitimate users.
    • You will need to know both your SSID and your network key or password in order to connect additional devices to your network. Make sure you write them down and keep them in a safe but accessible place.

    Warnings

    • Don’t use WEP unless there are no working alternatives. It is an older technology that knowledgeable criminals can easily circumvent.

    About the Author

    Josh Fredman is a freelance pen-for-hire and Web developer living in Seattle. He attended the University of Washington, studying engineering, and worked in logistics, health care and newspapers before deciding to go to work for himself.

    Photo Credits

    • Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images