Is Wi-Fi secure enough?

Or is Wi-Fi secure enough or should I be using a VPN all the way to my computer.  A huge advantage of moving the local side of the VPN tunnel to your router is it takes the pressure off weaker devices and allows for the use of devices that don’t support VPNs.   If you are using Wi-Fi to connect these devices to your router then the next question is ‘Am I now leaving myself open to attack between my device and my router’?   This could be a concern for those living in apartment buildings or other high density environments.

ZDnet has a great article on the subject, Why VPN can’t replace Wi-Fi Security.   Although its more aimed at corporate users most of the comments and all of the conclusions are still true for the home user or small business user.

Following 2 basic router security tips is generally just as effective as a VPN for the computer to router wireless connection and is the better or only solution for weaker devices:

1. Turn on the highest level of encryption your devices can collectively handle.   Do not use WEP.   Also pick a good passkey or better yet let the router pick it for you and use WPS.

2. Change the default router administrator password and make it a strong one.

For added security:

4. Enable MAC address filtering — only allow approved devices onto your router

5. Disable SSID broadcast — makes your router harder to find

6. Position your router toward the center of your desired coverage area and away from exterior walls and windows.

7. Turn off the router during extended periods of non-use

8. Forget what I just said — Turn off WPS, but still use a long, long passkey

Having said all this its possible to have your router configured with a VPN between itself and your computer and another VPN between itself and the outside world.   Depending on the VPN service used this might be difficult to set up and one or both VPNs may need to be set up “by hand” using the command line and not the web interface.   This also requires your router to process 2 VPN tunnels and would thus require a beefer processor and more memory.

Didn’t I hear WPA was cracked?   Both WEP and WPA have been cracked.   WEP can be cracked VERY easily and should not be used.   WPA can be cracked, but it effectively took a super computer.   For a regular computer it would take millions of years to crack a strong, long passkey.   New tools are available to crack WPA through WPS, so that should be turned off for higher security.   Ultimately the most secure wireless option is not to use it and go wired, but who wants that?

In conclusion using WPA2 and good passwords/passkeys offers acceptable security, easy set-up and low overhead for the home user.


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