My WiFi password is abcde12345

wifi HotspotsOn a recent trip I took my iPhone conmigo with the intent of using local coffee shops, restobars, and other public locations to access the Interwebs. Upon arriving at my destination, I took a dump and hit up the WiFi. Hmm, all these SSIDs are password protected. I asked my host for the SSID and password. The former was far more complex than the latter. A-B-C-D-E-1-2-3-4-5. “For real?” “Si.” My investigation into the nature of the chosen algorithm turned up a reasonable answer, “It’s what the directions said to do when I set up the router.”

This business is not the only one at risk. When my wife and I arrived at our foreign apartment, I fired up WiFiFoFum, a WiFi scanner app that searches for 802.11 networks. Immediately, a WPA-protected network appeared. Please enter password. Sure, A-B-C-D-E-1-2-3-4-5. Bam! I’m connected. I checked my mail, some social sites, the news, downloaded a few apps, and even listened to the Bears/Vikings game via Pocket Tunes. But wait, there’s more! Wireless connectivity isn’t just limited to the SSID password.

A few days later we traveled south to a glacial getaway. At the hotel I logged on to the linksys network. Day 1, no worries. Day 2, the Internet bombed. So, what does an IT geek do when the wireless connection tanks? Why, he logs in to the router to see what needs fixin’. Since the SSID was linksys, I knew that the router’s address was and the credentials were more than likely admin. Well hello router. Now, what seems to be the issue? The connection is active. The router is a gateway. Ah, there it is, someone turned off the Internet. Not anymore.

We lock our cars, our homes, even our gym lockers. Why aren’t we taking greater care of our networks? Forget the fact that the average consumer spends $50 a month on Internet. Instead, focus your attention on what network access gives to the WiFi surfer. When someone is logged in to your network they can access anything that is shared on your network. From music to videos to pictures to documents, WiFi surfers can access whatever you’re sharing sans any sophisticated hacking skills. Don’t believe me? Search the Interwebs for “Most common SSID/Router passwords.” That’s all you someone needs.

So how do you protect yourself?

  • Router. When you set up your router for the first time, go into the administrative settings and set a username/password for your router.
  • SSID. Choose WPA2 Personal/Enterprise and bang on your keyboard. When you’re done, write the pw on a post-it.
  • Network sharing. Always always always require a username and password when sharing files on your network. Always.

That’s it. If you’re looking to go CIA, find a program that will generate (and save) your password/s for you. I use 1Password by Agile Web Solutions. It’s easy to configure, can generate passwords, and saves logins in one handy place.

Following my advice will not keep you 100% secure. If someone wants in bad enough, they’ll get in. But, you’ll be preventing 98% (I made that percentage up) of WiFi surfers from using your network for their own good.