Tips to properly secure your Wi-Fi device

November 5, 2012 8:55:26 PM PST
Almost everyone has a computer or tablet or smart phone, but most of us are unwittingly not being very smart about using them.

Action News asked Brian Dainis, a web application and security developer, to walk through Rittenhouse Square and tell us what he found.

"I've actually never even seen this many vulnerable networks in one place before," Dainis said.

With just a Wi-Fi antenna and some special software, Dainis was able to see every available Wi-Fi network and how secure it was.

"If someone wants to perform some type of attack on the network, they could just walk in without even having to crack it," Dainis said.

In other words, most were not secure at all - half of them, he said, were totally open and many more easily hacked into.

Dainis and fellow computer consultant, Richard Geddes, found the same problem at our producer's house in Exton.

We asked them to show us how easily our producer's Wi-Fi could be hacked and they did in no time- 3 minutes and 51 seconds to be exact.

It took less than four minutes to access a password protected home Wi-Fi network along with information on any computers connected to it.

Both men say yours is almost guaranteed to be as easy to get to.

Drexel criminal justice professor Rob D'Ovido says most Wi-Fi routers come ready to install and that's the problem.

Just because it's up and running doesn't mean it's secure, as most people assume.

"Setting up that security protocol should be the first thing that people do," D'Ovido said.

Every router comes with one of three so-called security protocol settings; WPA2 is the newest and most secure.

Models more than a year old likely don't have it and are easier to hack.

But whichever you have, you have to activate the security when installing the router, something most people don't know.

D'Ovidio also says too many people don't change the router's name, the so-called SSID. Most are set to factory settings, well-known to hackers, and a red flag the network is likely unsecure.

"So a lot of these are named 5 uppercase letters and numbers, so that's a pretty dead giveaway," Dainis said while traveling through Rittenhouse Square.

But even those people who do change the name and use a password, don't take the next step: making your router invisible.

"And you can prevent that SSID from being broadcast by the router," D'Ovidio said.

That broadcast is how other devices "see" what Wi-Fi is available, the list of networks that shows up on your computer or smartphone, asking if you want to "join" them.

But even if your home system is secure, the same can't be said about that corner coffee shop or public park.

If you depend on their Wi-Fi to get online, D'Ovido says 'don't.'

"The general rule of thumb is that they're not going to be secure," D'Ovidio said.

Most, he says, are open, and unencrypted. That means any information you send over that network on your computer or smart phone can be seen and stolen.

Any password, any username, any time.

So, if you have to use a public Wi-Fi network, only access the internet through a VPN -- or virtual private network. If your employer doesn't provide one you can buy access to one.

And when it comes to your router, get the most up to date available; it will have the most up to date security software.

And always use a firewall, that way, even if someone hacks into the Wi-Fi you're using, they can't hack into your information.


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