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Building a Secure Wi-Fi Network

Building a Secure Wi-Fi Network

Maintaining network security is always a priority for the security-minded company, but if your organization’s strategy is to fly under the radar, you need a new plan. No business is too small to be a victim of a network breach. What most people who are tasked with coming up with a network security strategy for a small business don’t always realize is that threats are everywhere. Today, we’re going to take a look at planning a secure and reliable Wi-Fi strategy that doesn’t inherently add to your business’ risk. 

It isn’t always the IT department that pushes for wireless network implementation, but it continues to happen at most places of business. Luckily for all parties, today’s wireless internet is easier to install, is faster than ever, and works to protect network security better than ever before, once it is set up correctly. Let’s go step-by-step.

Step #1 - Identify Need

There are very distinct pros and cons to implementing a wireless network for your business. On one hand a wireless network is much more cost effective. It enhances mobility, which can fuel a more flexible and collaborative work environment. These are two very good reasons to implement one, but there are some detriments, especially considering security. It’s true that data sent over a Wi-Fi connection is more susceptible to threat than through a wired connection.  Luckily, wireless is more secure than it was in the past, but knowing you will have to keep a more vigilant eye on wirelessly transmitted data is a consideration you have to account for. 

Step #2 - Coverage Area

Supposing that you do see the benefits in implementing a wireless network, the next step is to identify what area needs to be covered by the wireless network. Do you want your Wi-Fi to reach outside the confines of your building? Ideally, you will want to examine just where you need coverage and come up with a general idea where your access points will be.

Step #3 - Bandwidth

Before you can start building your Wi-Fi network you need to determine how much bandwidth you are going to need to facilitate the users on your new wireless network. Are your users bandwidth-hungry? Are they using cloud platforms or uploading and downloading data constantly? Estimating your organization's bandwidth needs will go a long way toward dictating how many access points are needed. 

Step #4 - Hardware

The hardware you will need to implement your new Wi-Fi network is minimal, but identifying exactly what you need to fuel the platform you’ve planned is a big step. Part of selecting the hardware you need is deciding which wireless standard to follow. Of course, there is some interoperability between standards, but for your business’ benefit, planning on using a single standard is best practice. The most prevalent for high speed wireless transmission are 802.11a and 802.11g. 802.11b delivers slower Internet speeds, but also reduces the prices of the hardware substantially.

Step #5 - Implementation

Setting up the network may be more work than you may think, but it’s true that some places can just put a single wireless router on the wall next to the modem and cover everything the business needs it to cover. If this doesn’t describe your business, you will want to do a site survey to test the Wi-Fi’s reach so you can put the hardware in the right spots.

Step #6 - Security

Before you let anyone access your new Wi-Fi network, you will absolutely want to set up the security you plan on using. At 415 IT, we suggest that you consult an IT expert when implementing security. This is because as much as you can understand the best practices needed to control a system’s security, an expert has the experience needed to set up the network security options properly, and can work to integrate it with your other network security efforts.

If you insist on doing this type of thing yourself, there are a couple of things you need to do. They include:

  1. Change your router’s admin password - The first step in most security practices is changing the password. It is no different here.
  2. Turn off Service Set Identifier (SSID) broadcasting - This doesn’t allow passersby to see that your wireless network is up and available. 
  3. Change default SSID - Since a lot of factory-provided SSID values are available, you can avoid them altogether by changing the SSID login name.
  4. Enable MAC address filtering - This gives you control over which users have access to what access points. 
  5. Add EAP authentication and enable encryption - Requires secure authentication from each user on the network. 
  6. Consider virtual private networking - If you need extra security, a virtual private network connection can provide access to your network when you are out of the WLAN’s reach. 

Step #7 - Deploy

Once your Wi-Fi is properly secured, it is time to start adding your users to it. Again, the technicians at 415 IT can save a lot of time and effort with the management of this process. Our team would be able to properly set up the secure Wi-Fi network using the SSID information and the MAC address filter that was set up earlier, effectively whitelisting the devices you want to allow, instead of blacklisting all the devices you don’t.

If you would like help setting up your business’ Wi-Fi connection call the experts at 415 IT today at (415) 295-4898.

Tip of the Week: Extend Your IT Budget
The Endless Line of Costs from a Data Breach
 

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