Protecting Your Home Network
Your home's wired and wireless Internet connections should be as secure as possible. All home wireless (WiFi) networks should be password protected with the strongest encryption available. Your Internet connection should be secured with OpenDNS, which is a simple, powerful, and free solution that helps parents protect all devices on their network from inappropriate web sites.
Your home network is like an on-ramp. It's the place that lets you get onto the Internet super-highway. If you're serious about online safety, then you need to make sure that on-ramp—your network—is secure so that only the right kind of traffic passes through it. Securing your home network is like putting a traffic cop at the on-ramp. That cop checks and guide all the traffic that passes through. It lets the good traffic through while stopping the bad.
Let's face it, if you're either a busy or non-technical family, the very thought of securing your home network probably sounds daunting. It's something you need to do. The great news is that it's easy to do and free. The benefit is protecting your computers from outside intruders or prying neighbors. We'll outline the two primary areas: 1) Securing your wireless network (if you have one) and 2) adding content filtering and fraudulent web site protection.
Securing Your Wireless Network
Wireless (WiFi) networks are great—especially at home. There are no wires to run; they're easy to use; and they are very convenient. But let's be honest: putting a password on your WiFi network is a pain and many of us don't bother. However, your WiFi network is the one place where you absolutely need a password. In fact, a WiFi network in your home should be password protected with both a strong password—using a combination of capital letters, numbers, and characters like !@#$%&—and the strongest security encryption possible (as of this writing, that means using WPA2 encryption). If you have a WiFi network setup in your home, then check the user manual for your wireless router. If your WiFi network was setup by your Internet provider, then confirm the encryption settings and password strength.
Other Wireless Networks
Wireless signals can travel quite a distance and go through walls. Just because you have secured your WiFi connection doesn't mean that there aren't other unsecured WiFi connections available from your neighbors' homes. Look for any unsecured networks that are coming from your neighbors' homes. All wireless computers and mobile devices will allow you to search for available wireless networks. Networks that are password-protected will show up with a lock. If you do see any wireless networks available from your home, talk with your neighbors with them and ask them to secure their wireless networks. They may not even know that their network is unsecured or fully understand the risks.
Network Content Filtering and Protection
Now that you've secured your WiFi network, there's one more thing to do: add content filtering and fraudulent web site protection through a service called OpenDNS. OpenDNS (www.OpenDNS.com) is a service that helps protect devices connected to your home's Internet connection. It's is used at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, in many schools and corporations around the country, and has been featured in several well-known publications. Think of OpenDNS as that traffic cop we mentioned above. Once it's setup, OpenDNS analyzes the web sites you're attempting to access and determines whether or not the content on those sites is OK or too risqué.
OpenDNS is a great solution for your home network: 1) It's free for home use. 2) It's super-easy to setup and use. 3) It's incredibly powerful and works on both WiFi and wired networks. 4) It works on devices connected your network—including mobile, computers, and gaming. 5) It provides an additional layer of security to standard parental controls. 6) It includes anti-fraud and anti-phishing protection. This protects you from fraudulent web sites. 7) OpenDNS provides easy-to-read reports about the Internet usage and sites visited from your home. You can signup for OpenDNS at: http://www.opendns.com/home-solutions
Remember that safety starts at home—your home! By following these two simple suggestions, you can significantly add both reasonable security and content filtering to your home network. No system is perfect. Having multiple systems work together is always best. Thus, if you want to maximize the safety of your home's Internet connection, securing your wireless network and signing up and configuring OpenDNS are the first two places to start.
Family Discussion Starters
- Where are some places where you feel safe? Who are some people that you feel safe around? Why is that? What does it mean to be safe?
- What are some of the basic security measures you follow at home? Do you regularly lock your home or your car? If you have an alarm, do you keep the code secret or share it with others?
- Do you ever take shortcuts when it comes to your or your family's security? Is there a pattern to the things you'll shortcut and the things you won't? Does that same pattern of behavior happen with technology?
- Are there any kinds of safety or measures that you could be doing, but currently don't, with the technology in your home? What are some of the reasons why you haven't been more diligent? Are any of those reasons valid reasons? What are some ways to overcome those shortcomings?
- How do you feel about the safety and security of your home network—both individually and as a family. Do you all feel the same way? If not, why? What can you do to improve your family's feelings about the safety of your home's network.
- Identify the different kids of devices that connect to the Internet (examples: computer, mobile phone, gaming, etc.) Identify the different safety measures you are taking on those devices. Is there any area that is missing?
- How can you make reasonable safety and security a more integral part of your digital world.
- What are some ways that you can share the message of home network safety and security with your family and friends?
- Secure all wireless (WiFi) networks in your home with a strong password and encryption.
- Use only strong passwords, which contain letters, numbers, and punctuation characters.
- Choose WPA2 as the password security option for your WiFi network.
- Use OpenDNS to help provide content filtering and fraudulent web site protection to the devices on your home network.
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