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Setting up a Wireless Network

A Wireless network is probably the cheapest, fastest and most user friendly solution out of all the networks. The number of components it users is very small and you often find that you already have these as part of your existing setup.

Components

The table below shows the components required to successfully setup your Wireless network.

Example Image Device Comment
Wireless router ADSL/Cable Wireless Router If you already have broadband then the chances are that you will have one of these as part of you contract with your Internet Service Provider. These devices act as a gateway, allowing a number of devices in your home to connect simultaneously to the internet and to connect to each other. These also generally come with 4 network ports so you could attach a HomePlug or Wired Network.
Laptop Laptop These days, you won't find a single laptop out there that doesn't have some form of wireless connection. With this and a Wireless Router, you already have all you need to setup your first network.
Wireless Card for PC Wireless PC Card (optional) If you already have a Tower or Desktop PC and want to connect it wirelessly to your network, one of the options you have is to buy a Wireless Card like this.
Wireless USB Device Wireless USB Stick (optional) If you just don't have room in your PC or you don't want to pull the lid off and mess around inside, a USB device will neatly slot into one of the many ports you will have available on your machine. This could also be used to upgrade your existing wireless card on your laptop.
Wireless Card Laptop Wireless PCMCIA card for a laptop (optional) If your built-in laptop wireless card is not fast enough, you could consider upgrading by using one of these, thus saving a USB slot on the laptop and also making it safer as it will be tucked inside your PC where it is less likely to get damaged or lost.

 

Encryption

Wireless networks offer a range of different security options which are detailed below. You must setup your wireless security as anyone could snoop you network and potentially steal information from your computers. Go for the highest level of encryption you have available on your devices. Note that your Wireless Router will only allow you to use one type of security across all your devices so sometimes you may be limited by the lowest common denominator. If that lowest common denominator only offers a security level which is too low then you should consider using Homeplugs, a Wired Network or just removing that device from your network altogether.

Encryption Level Comment
WEP 64bit The original encryption for Wireless Networks. These days this can be easily cracked and is not recommended.
WEP 128bit A higher level of encryption than the 64bit but still, a skilled hacker could easily break into your network in a matter of hours. The recommendation from Microsoft is that you change this password at last once a month. This could be painful if you have a number of devices.
WPA-Personal (or WPA-PSK) This is a newer encryption method and because it is newer, it is not as widely supported. For instance, you will need to run at least Microsoft XP SP2 to have this option. This type of encryption involves using a Pass Phrase. Use at least a 20 character string of random letters and numbers or better yet, a whole sentence of up to 63 characters long.
WPA2-Personal This is the newest type of encryption and is the most secure, meaning it should be your first choice if possible.

As an addition to your Wireless Security Encryption, you should also stop broadcasting your Wireless SSID (this is basically something that advertises your Wireless Network to the surrounding area) as well as restricting the machines that can connect to your Wireless Network. This can be done by locking it down to allow only certain MAC addresses. One final thing: you should also change the default administrative username/password of your Wireless Router. They are often just admin/admin or admin/password. If someone can access your router then this will leave you vunerable to an attack.

 

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