Guide

Securing your wireless network

Improve WLAN security with VPN and firewalls

The latest security protocols, based on Wi-Fi protected access, can help strengthen your wireless local area network (WLAN) defences.

However, there are other ways of boosting your network security, such as using virtual private networks (VPNs) and firewalls.

Virtual private networks

With a VPN, you can create a secure network even with an insecure WLAN system. You can do this by encrypting all of the data that passes over the network so that an 'eavesdropper' can't read it.

While VPN encryption is a good solution to secure wireless traffic, there are some limitations. For example, VPNs may:

  • be difficult to set up internally - you may need to get expert advice to help you design and implement an effective VPN system
  • cause difficulties for users with laptops to roam around your building, particularly if you have a large building with several access points, which transfer data between your devices - this is due to the need to hand over from one access point to another

See more on possible problems and early WLAN security issues.

Firewalls

A firewall is a device or piece of software that controls what data is allowed to pass through it. You can use a firewall in a network to:

  • separate an insecure part of the network from the secure area where your most critical data is managed
  • separate all the wireless data traffic from your wired network

However, unless you have the technical knowledge, you may find setting up a firewall in this way difficult to achieve without hiring an IT specialist.

If you have an existing internet connection, you will probably have a firewall already in place. However, do not assume that you can use this to provide protection for your WLAN. You may need an additional device depending on your network design.

Unless you have good IT security skills available internally, you should seek advice from an experienced consultant to help you design your network.

It's important to understand that no single solution will give you guaranteed protection against existing WLAN vulnerabilities. In most cases, the best way to secure your network is to:

  • set up and maintain the network and the connected devices correctly
  • implement appropriate safety measures
  • train your staff on acceptable use and networking best practices

Find 10 tips for better WLAN security and see server security: measures to protect your network.