Before we begin, think about how many of your devices connect to a network without a wire. Wires are inconvenient tethers that can prevent you from moving around and doing your job or enjoying your life. A bit dramatic, I know, but think about how many times you pull your phone out per day to check social media, your e-mail or even your bank account.
With the large variety of devices we have and use regularly, there has to be a compromise for that convenience – in this case, security. If wireless isn’t done right, any person with malicious intent, and the knowledge to do so, could intercept sensitive data such as your bank login or patient data if you run a medical facility.
Some steps involved in securing your data are: ensuring you have the knowledge to do so (our blogs are a great place to start), keeping devices up-to-date, using complex passwords, locking devices when left unattended and securing your network. We will go over securing your wireless network by discussing wireless encryption, replacing defaults as well as keeping routers and access points updated.
Wireless Network Encryption
Encryption is a means of scrambling data. When it comes to a wireless network, encryption scrambles the data that is sent wirelessly to connected devices. This is much more secure than an “open” network, in which anyone can connect. Preventing those that should not have access to your network from connecting to the network in the first place is one of the biggest steps you can take in wireless network security.
There are two main types of encryption: Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP). WPA and WEP are generally unsafe to use these days due to the abundance and availability of tools to crack such encryption. To solve this, a newer standard of WPA, aptly named WPA2, is available. If your access point or wireless router is not capable of WPA2, ensure you have updated the firmware of your device. If still not capable, it is time to upgrade to a newer device.
When setting up your wireless network, setup encryption with a strong password. Simple passwords are simply not secure; they are easy to guess and the first to be tried when attempting to gain access to a network. Set a password that you do not use anywhere else that contains at least 8 characters, using lowercase/uppercase letters, numbers and special characters.
Defaults are rarely a good thing! A device setup using defaults is unbelievably insecure. Unfortunately, whole brands tend to use the same default login information between devices they manufacture. Even more unfortunate still, many different brands share similar, or even the same, default login.
On November 6, 2016, a “Mirai” botnet took advantage of this fact by using an army of compromised devices to attack Dyn (a big backbone in online infrastructure and what aids us in visiting websites or accessing different services such as Netflix). These devices were compromised by using widely available default logins. The attack affected a myriad of websites and services, even taking down big names like Netflix, Twitter and Spotify. Moral of the story: replace device defaults to safeguard against these attacks.
Any device, new or old, may be vulnerable to attacks. To be secure and effective, firmware on your devices need occasional updates. Before you set up a new router or access point, and periodically thereafter, visit the manufacturer’s website to see if there’s a new version of the firmware available for download. To make sure you get new information about latest versions, register your device with the manufacturer and sign up to receive updates.
You do not need to be a medical practice or a large corporation to take steps in protecting your information. Take some time to read our other blog posts on cybersecurity and prevent your devices and data from being compromised.