Wireless technology

Wireless networking security


Wireless security measures aim to prevent unauthorised access or damage to computers that use wireless networks. Security largely depends upon the user making the most of the options available, such as:

  • the in-built encryption mechanisms offered by wireless networks, such as Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA)
  • virtual private networks (VPNs)

Wireless networks can be more vulnerable to attack than traditional wired networks. Potentially, anyone can connect to a network or intercept another's connection. If you're using wireless technologies in your business, it's essential that you build security into your network.

How to protect your wireless network

There are several vital measures you can put in place to help protect your network. As a bare minimum: 

  • You should password-protect access to a wireless local area network (WLAN) - most products allow this facility but you must make sure that it is enabled.
  • Passwords should be 'strong' - they should not be easy to unlock by trial and error and should include letters, numbers and special characters. Wireless passwords should be over ten characters long. Avoid using common words, names or memorable dates for your passwords. Find password strategies to help keep your business secure.
  • Employees should fully understand the importance of IT security.
  • Security standards are constantly evolving, so research the market thoroughly and choose an upgradeable kit.
  • Always activate the data encryption methods that come with most wireless networks and remember to reset the default passwords. You can upgrade some networks to the new WLAN standards, so check what is on offer before you buy the hardware.
  • Use VPNs to improve the security of wireless networking - see computer networks.

See also guidance on deploying Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) to establish VPNs.

Security issues in wireless networks

There are many strategies that can help your organisation protect its wireless networks. For example:

  • If a tablet computer, smartphone, or laptop is lost or stolen, revoke access privileges associated with usernames and passwords to secure the network.
  • Use the in-built security and encryption options to bolster device security - you can check how to do this in the operating manuals, but remember to change the pre-set passwords.
  • Use personal firewall software to determine what data the user should see in potentially insecure places, eg when accessing the network from a WLAN 'hotspot'.
  • Use anti-malware software to prevent trojans, keystroke loggers and other spyware.
  • If your staff access sensitive data on mobile devices, provide training to ensure that they keep these devices and their data safe.

Read more about securing your wireless network.