What’s Got a Strangle Hold on Your WiFi?

Just about everyone has experienced interference on their WiFi. Drop outs are becoming more and more frequent simply because the 2.4GHz frequency band is so congested.

A recent article in PC Pro explored this phenomenon using some rather nifty visual aids.

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The above image shows an analysis of all the radio frequency activity in the vicinity of the PC Pro office. This is wireless signals and other devices using the 2.4GHz band.

The article then went on to analyse this:

Look closely and you’ll see that, on channel 8, there’s a non-Wi-Fi source of interference, represented as three bright stripes in the bottom “waterfall” window: I’ve not tracked down the culprit yet. To the right, the broad red/green stripe flanked by two narrower vertical green lines shows you the devastation a cheap wireless video sender can wreak.

While this might seem a rather extreme example, I’m sure that many living in densely populated urban centres will be surrounded by a similar level of congestion and interference. Just imagine how many baby monitors, cordless phones and wireless routers there are in a modern, central London block of flats, and you’ll get the idea.

So, what’s the answer?

Well, the article suggest  that, when next upgrading your wireless router, you go for a dual-band model that gives you the option of connecting to the less congested 5GHz frequency band.

As the image below shows (an analysis of the 5GHz band in the same location), the difference between the 2 bands is quite staggering:

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Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Your Wireless Network Security

computersafetyWhen you get your wireless router, if you just get it out of the box, set it up and rely on the default settings for your security, you’re in big trouble.

This is because the default settings leave your network wide open for anyone to use or, if they are that way inclined, exploit.

Plus, when setting up your network leave your security off until you know it’s working properly. It’s a lot easier to troubleshoot any problems you may encounter before you throw security measures into the mix.

As soon as it’s all working properly, it’s time to get your security set up. The level you go for is entirely up to you, but make sure you read the instructions for your specific router. Here are a few basics to familiarise you with some of the security terminology.

SSID Broadcast

This is the name that is sent out to identify your network. You can turn off broadcasting this name if you want to make it more difficult for people to find your network.

Make sure you change the name from the default setting to avoid people connecting to you in error (especially if your neighbour happens to have the same default SSID name as you). Use something that will identify it as being yours, such as your name or address.

MAC Filtering

Every network adapter has its own MAC address, similar to a serial number of a computer. You can use this to tell your router which computers it is to connect to, therefore preventing others from connecting to your network.

Encryption

There are many different types and levels of encryption out there, with new ones being developed all the time. A good minimum level to go for would be WEP 128 or WPA. You can find out how to change these settings in your router’s manual.

Firewalls

A lot of routers today have a built-in hardware firewall. However, to give your security a real boost, you should also think about using an anti-virus product with a built-in firewall such as Bullguard.

At the end of the day, if someone is intent on getting into your network, the chances are they will. Although it may be impossible to guarantee 100% that no one can gain access, it’s worthwhile ensuring you make it as difficult as possible for them.

Don’t leave it to chance, make sure you take the necessary steps to boost your network’s security.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.