The age of wireless computing has brought unprecedented freedom and mobility for computer systems users in a variety of circumstances. 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 college dorm or office WLAN.

The risks

Wireless networks don’t stop at the walls of your home. In fact, wireless networks often extend more than 300 feet from your wireless router. If you live in an apartment, dorm, or condominium, you may have dozens of neighbors who can access your wireless network. If you live in a house, your neighbors and even people on the street may be able to connect to your network.

It’s one thing to let a neighbor borrow your lawn mower, but you should think twice about allowing anyone to access your home network. There are several good reasons for this. People who can connect to your wireless network might be able to:

a. Slow down your Internet performance

b. View files on your computers and spread dangerous software

c. Monitor the Web sites you visit, read your e-mail and instant messages as they travel across the network, and copy your usernames and passwords

d. Send spam or perform illegal activities with your Internet connection

By setting up security features on your wireless network, you can make it very difficult for uninvited guests to connect.

Wireless networks are becoming increasingly popular, but they introduce additional security risks. If you have a wireless network, make sure to take appropriate precautions to protect your information.