Wireless network overview
Wireless networks have become an inherent part of our life and we all use wireless networks in some form in our day to day life. Of all the utilities provided by wireless networks, we use wireless networks mostly for connecting to the internet. We connect to the internet wirelessly either by router or using mobile data and enjoy the internet on our device from any part of the world.
Wireless networks make use of radio waves for connecting and exchanging data with the devices in the network. Depending upon the number of connected devices and size of the network, Wireless Networks can be mainly divided into 4 types –
- Wireless Local Area Network (LAN): LAN connects two or more devices using a wireless distribution technique
- Wireless Metropolitan Area Networks (MAN): MAN Connects two or more wireless LANs.
- Wireless Wide Area Network (WAN): WAN Network comprises large neighbouring towns and cities.
- Wireless Personal Area Network (PAN): PAN as the name suggests, Iconnects devices in a short range, usually within a person’s reach.
- Cellular Network
Wireless Lan Components
Since wireless connection has many components, we won’t be going through all of them. Following are the components which everyone should be aware of –
- Wireless Access Point (WAP) – Wireless Access Point are basically routers which provide internet connection to the devices connected to it. The other end of the router is connected to the ISP network using copper or fibre wire.
- Client – Systems connected to WAP for accessing the internet are Clients. They are computers, laptops, mobile, printers, IoT Devices etc.
- ISP – Stands for Internet Service Provider. ISP provides internet connection to the client by connecting it to the WAP.
- MODEM – Modulator-Demodulator. Converts digital data to wireless signals and vice-versa.
- MAC Address – Physical Address of the clients. This cannot be changed and is unique for each device.
- IP Address – Address assigned by router when a new device is connected to it. It’s not fixed and changes when a device disconnects and connects again.
- SSID – Service Set Identifier. SSID is the name given to the router/WAP.
Wireless network offers following WiFi standards –
- 802.11a – It supports transmission speeds of around 54Mbps and operates on a frequency of 5GHz.
- 802.11b – Operates within the range of 2.4GHz and supports up to 11Mbps. It is less vulnerable to obstructions as compared to 802.11a.
- 802.11g – Combines features of 802.11a & 802.11b. Supports both the frequency range 5GHz & 2.4GHz. Also, it is backward compatible with 802.11b devices and is more expensive to implement.
- 802.11n – Most recent one and is popularly known as Wireless N and is an upgraded version of 802.11g. If signal obstructions are experienced, alternative routes are used. Last but not the least, it’s implementation is highly expensive.
Wireless Network Security
The wireless network we use is responsible for transferring and sending data like username, password, card details and other sensitive data. If the wireless network we use is not secure then we are at risk and may face undesirable consequences.
Example – An attacker could perform following attacks if the wireless network is not secured –
1) Intercept data being transmitted or received
2) Gain access to the files and folders onto the system
3) Use your internet connection and hijack it to use your bandwidth
Following are the few steps one should take to secure their wireless network –
1) Change default home network name – Default network name reveals router brand being used and helps cybercriminals to search for vulnerabilities in specific brands and try to exploit vulnerabilities present in them. SSID should be unique and should not reveal brand manufacturer name.
2) Wi-Fi Password – Many times the password set for accessing wireless connection is too simple to predict and guess. The password should be long enough and must be a combination of alphabet, numbers and special characters.
3) Wireless Encryption – Routers provide various encryption like WEP, WAP, WPA, WPA2 and WPA3. WEP and WPA should not be used, WPA2 should be used. If available, WPA3 should be used instead of WPA2 along with AES Encryption.
4) Default login username password – By default, majority of the router uses admin:admin or admin:password as username/password for accessing the router console page. The default username and password should be changed.
5) Change default IP to access router console – Usually router console can be easily accessed by querying 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1 on the browser. This makes it simple for anyone to access the router login page.
6) Disable Remote Access to Router – Many a times the router console can be accessed remotely, this enables an attacker to access the router over the internet.
7) Firmware Update – The router firmware should be kept updated to the latest version.
8) Firewall – A firewall should be actively used to allow legitimate traffic to flow within the network.
9) VLAN Isolation – VLAN should be used to segregate the network and allow devices to be placed in a particular VLAN.
These are some of the simple and effective steps which when followed can provide all round-protection for your Wi-Fi Network.
Wireless Network though they make our life sophisticated comes with the great responsibility of securing them since they are more vulnerable to attack as compared to wired networks. If one is using wireless networks then proper security measures should be in place to make them secure and safe from attacks.