For the first few years after home wireless routers became available, it was quite common for everyone to leave their router in open access mode. But then strangers began to steal bandwidth and criminals began to use open wifi access points to illegally access computers on the Internet.

This not only cost money in extra bandwidth use, but it also put the home networks data under threat.

Home Wi-fi security is now a practical necessity. Here’s how to make sure you’re using the best security possible.

Use WPA, Not WEP Or Open Access

Most newer routers come configured by default for WPA, but you should check to be sure. Log in to your router using the instructions provided by your manual and go to the Wireless Security screen, which may be a subsection of the Wireless Setup screen.

Look for an encryption setting. You should see options named similar to the following:

•     None (open)

•     WEP (possibly followed by some numbers)

•     WPA (possibly followed by numbers or abbreviations)

You don’t want to use no security or WEP. You only want to use one of the WPA options; WPA-PSK is the most common and all modern computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets support it. Use WPA2 instead of WPA if your router supports it.

WPA requires that you enter a password, although many high-quality routers also support push-button configuration which makes adding new devices to your network much easier.

Even if you use push-button configuration, you still need to set a password. Choose a strong password because hackers can try lots of different passwords if they want to break into your router.

After I choose a password for a home router, I always write it on a sticky note and attach it to the top of my router. When a guest wants to log in to my router, I point them at the router so they can read the password off of the sticky note. (This saves me from having to spell out my complicated passwords.)

Another important way to protect your home wireless network is to change the password after sharing it. After all, you might have hundreds of friends that can all login to your home network.

See Who Is Using Your WiFi

Many users do not realise that you can check your to see who is using your internet connection and also block their IP address from further access. Even if you do not have a router, but just a modem, all you have to do is login to the device’s homepage to see the list of users on the network.

To do this you will need to know your own IP address so you can eliminate that from your investigations. But when all is said and done, this is a handy way to get rid of free loading or snooping guests.

Should You Hide Your SSID?

Before WPA became popular, the previous wireless encryption protocol (WEP) was compromised and manufacturers of wireless routers needed a quick fix to increase the security of their devices, so they created hidden SSIDs.

The SSID is the name of your router network. It’s used by devices which want to connect to your router so they can configure themselves.

If you hide your SSID, it becomes much harder to connect to your network because nobody with normal computer tools can see that your wireless network exists.

Hiding SSIDs will prevent the next door neighbor from using your wireless network, but it won’t block a serious hacker. And for as long as WPA provides great security, hiding your SSID provides no extra security.

But hiding your SSID does make it harder for guests in your house to connect to your network. Hidden SSIDs are also known to cause problems with some devices, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, so I recommend that you broadcast your SSID.

One warning: be careful what you type in your SSID. Anyone with a computer in range of your house (which can be up to a mile with sensitive equipment) can see your SSID, so you probably don’t want to type in something personal such as your GMail password. Also you do not want to use your family name or anything that identifies your home network as a hacker might specifically be trying to find your network.

Implementing a few home wireless security tips can save you a lot of hassle in the long run.