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How to keep your personal data safe

Most of us lock up our homes in order to keep the bad guys out. Yet we fail to afford the same protection to our personal data by leaving our wireless network access points unsecured. This week we discuss common steps that help secure an AP. Start by finding the AP manual. Cant find it? Try the manufacturers Web site for an on-line version. Look up the procedure for connecting to the AP and follow it. The procedure is often fairly simple open a Web browser, enter an IP address into the address bar and hit Enter. Enter the default username/password and youre in. Immediately change the default username and password to something more secure than the default values. Record those new items in a safe place for future use. Next, enable a form of security. Use WPA if available and WEP as a second choice. While WEP is weaker, its better than no security at all. Youll have to enable the same configuration on all the computers that connect to your wireless system. Record these settings because youll need them to set up each wireless client. In addition to adding security, use MAC filtering if available. In essence that creates a list of computers that are authorized to use the wireless system and every other computer is locked out. Discovering the MAC address for each wireless client (computer or device) may take some time, but the added security is worth it. Perform on-line research if the manual how-to is vague. Lastly, change the default SSID and don't use anything obvious like your address or company name. Keep it simple and record the information. These steps will keep out most unauthorized users. For more info visit the Practically Networked folks at www.practicallynetworked.com/support/wireless_secure.htm. Ron Poland is a professor in the Computer Information Systems AAS program at Clinton Community College. Poland is certified in company repair and networking by the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). He is also a Cisco certified network assistant. Questions may be sent to him via e-mail at ron@ronpoland.com.

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