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How Lisa configures a wireless home network!

I would like to know if you yourself would use the wireless technology that is out now? And if so, how would you set up your home network - with security being an issue?
YES! I have a more complex WLAN than most people do at home because I work from a home office where I test a wide variety of network security products. However, I frequently set up home WLANs for family and friends, and those configurations are more typical of residential wireless networks. Usually, I am asked to help someone with high-speed Internet cable or DSL who already has a least one desktop PC and a laptop or two from work. If they already have a cable modem, I recommend purchasing a wireless router with a built-in Ethernet switch. If the location is convenient, I use the PC's existing Ethernet card to connect to the wireless router, then add wireless cards to laptops (or add profiles to existing PC cards so that they can be used on the home WLAN as well as at the office).

When selecting a wireless router, I consider whether the home-owner needs features like VPN pass thru to reach a VPN gateway at the office, support for challenging applications, or to host external servers - for example, a personal web server. I tend to prefer wireless routers with more advanced firewalling features if cost is not an over-riding concern. I always recommend installing personal firewall software on all desktops and laptops anyway, and of course AV software.

Finally, I enable all relevant security features on the wireless router - at minimum, a good SSID, shared key authentication and WEP with static keys, and MAC access control lists. I configure a strong admin password, enable secure admin, and limit admin access to Ethernet (and specifically, the desktop PC) where possible. I configure the wireless router's firewall with the most conservative rules that I can, while still meeting the owner's needs. As WPA upgrades become available, I will definitely recommend installing them and using WPA instead of WEP whenever possible.

When I'm done, I take one last walk around the house with a laptop or wireless LAN analyzer to see where deadspots are and where significant signal leakage or interference occurs. If I've placed the wireless router well in the first place, that's it. Otherwise, I adjust placement and/or tune configuration until everyone is happy.

This was last published in June 2003

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