Hacker: Nothing to see here. Don't read this.
You're using a wireless access point that has encryption so you're safe, right? Wrong! Hackers want you to believe that you are protected so you will remain vulnerable to their attacks. Here are 4 things that wireless hackers hope you won't find out, otherwise they might not be able to break into your network and/or computer:
1. WEP encryption is useless for protecting your wireless network. WEP is easily cracked within minutes and only provides users with a false sense of security.
Even a mediocre hacker can defeat Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP)-based security in a matter of minutes, making it essentially useless as a protection mechanism. Many people set their wireless routers up years ago and have never bothered to change their wireless encryption from WEP to the newer and stronger WPA2 security. Updating your router to WPA2 is a fairly simple process. Visit your wireless router manufacturer's website for instructions.
2. Using your wireless router's MAC filter to prevent unauthorized devices from joining your network is ineffective and easily defeated.
Every piece of IP-based hardware, whether it's a computer, game system, printer, etc, has a unique hard-coded MAC address in its network interface. Many routers will allow you to permit or deny network access based on a device's MAC address. The wireless router inspects the MAC address of the network device requesting access and compares it your list of permitted or denied MACs. This sounds like a great security mechanism but the problem is that hackers can "spoof" or forge a fake MAC address that matches an approved one. All they need to do is use a wireless packet capture program to sniff (eavesdrop) on the wireless traffic and see which MAC addresses are traversing the network. They can then set their MAC address to match one of that is allowed and join the network.
3. Disabling your wireless router's remote administration feature can be a very effective measure to prevent a hacker from taking over your wireless network.
Many wireless routers have a setting that allows you to administer the router via a wireless connection. This means that you can access all of the routers security settings and other features without having to be on a computer that is plugged into the router using an Ethernet cable. While this is convenient for being able to administer the router remotely, it also provides another point of entry for the hacker to get to your security settings and change them to something a little more hacker friendly. Many people never change the factory default admin passwords to their wireless router which makes things even easier for the hacker. I recommend turning the "allow admin via wireless" feature off so only someone with a physical connection to the network can attempt to administer the wireless router settings.
4. If you use public hotspots you are an easy target for man-in-the-middle and session hijacking attacks.
Hackers can use tools like Firesheep and AirJack to perform "man-in-the-middle" attacks where they insert themselves into the wireless conversation between sender and receiver. Once they have successfully inserted themselves into the line of communications, they can harvest your account passwords, read your e-mail, view your IMs, etc. They can even use tools such as SSL Strip to obtain passwords for secure websites that you visit. I recommend using a commercial VPN service provider to protect all of your traffic when you are using wi-fi networks. Costs range from $7 and up per month. A secure VPN provides an additional layer of security that is extremely difficult to defeat. Unless the hacker is extremely determined they will most likely move on and try an easier target.
Written by Andy O'Donnel with AboutTech