These days wireless networking products are so ubiquitous and inexpensive that just about anyone can set up a WLAN in a matter of minutes with less than $100 worth of equipment. This widespread use of wireless networks means that there may be dozens of potential network intruders lurking within range of your home or office WLAN.
Most WLAN hardware has gotten easy enough to set up that many users simply plug it in and start using the network without giving much thought to security. Nevertheless, taking a few extra minutes to configure the security features of your wireless router or access point is time well spent. Here are some of the things you can do to protect your wireless network:
1) Secure your wireless router or access point administration
Almost all routers and access points have an administrator password that's needed to log into the device and modify any configuration settings. Most devices use a weak default password like "password" or the manufacturer's name, and some don't have a default password at all. As soon as you set up a new WLAN router or access point, your first step should be to change the default password to something else. You may not use this password very often, so be sure to write it down in a safe place so you can refer to it if needed. Without it, the only way to access the router or access point may be to reset it to factory default settings which will wipe away any configuration changes you've made.
2) Don't broadcast your SSID
Most WLAN access points and routers automatically (and continually) broadcast the network's name, or SSID (Service Set IDentifier). This makes setting up wireless clients extremely convenient since you can locate a WLAN without having to know what it's called, but it will also make your WLAN visible to any wireless systems within range of it. Turning off SSID broadcast for your network makes it invisible to your neighbors and passers-by (though it will still be detectible by WLAN "sniffers").
3)Enable WPA encryption instead of WEP
802.11's WEP (Wired Equivalency Privacy) encryption has well-known weaknesses that make it relatively easy for a determined user with the right equipment to crack the encryption and access the wireless network. A better way to protect your WLAN is with WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access). WPA provides much better protection and is also easier to use, since your password characters aren't limited to 0-9 and A-F as they are with WEP. WPA support is built into Windows XP (with the latest Service Pack) and virtually all modern wireless hardware and operating systems. A more recent version, WPA2, is found in newer hardware and provides even stronger encryption, but you'll probably need to download an XP patch in order to use it.
Read the rest at Practically Networked.