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How do I protect my WiFi network?

The web is just like the rest of the world. Most people you meet want to chat, explore and have fun together. Sadly, there are people out there who see the web as an opportunity to get hold of your personal information to use for their own gain. This can include gaining access to your WiFi network in your home.

But don’t worry, because, just like in the real world, as long as you keep your wits about you and follow our simple advice, you’ll be able to protect your own and your families’ use of your WiFi network.

Use WPA2 encryption

The most common way to protect a WiFi network is to enable the WiFi router's built-in encryption options. Encryption means that the WiFi signal is scrambled so that unauthorised computers and devices are unable to understand the data being transmitted across your WiFi network. The computers and devices you want to be able to access your network are set up so that they can unscramble the WiFi signal – meaning that you can connect to the WiFi network without any problems.

There are several ways to encrypt your router’s signal – WPA2, WPA and WEP. We recommend using WPA2, and this is enabled by default on all Virgin Media Hubs.

WPA2 works on the latest WiFi equipment and operating systems but both WPA and WPA2, combined with a unique passphrase, make it almost impossible for anyone unauthorised to gain access to your WiFi network. For more information about WPA2, WPA and WEP, see WiFi encryption options.

Choose your own WiFi passphrase

Most WiFi routers, and all Virgin Media Hubs have a unique WiFi passphrase, to ensure that only you and those you give the passphrase to can access your WiFi network.

To improve your security we recommend you change this to a passphrase only you know. When choosing your new passphrase we recommend at least twelve characters with a mix of upper case, lower case and numbers. It should be unique: not something you use for anything else.

For more information on changing your Hub's WiFi passphrase see Changing your Virgin Media Hub's wireless password

Disable broadcast of SSID

Every WiFi router has a name, or Service Set Identifier (SSID), and this is what you and other users will see when scanning for available WiFi networks. The list of names shown is all the networks your computer or device is able to 'see'.

Every Virgin Media Hub is preconfigured with its own SSID (often found on the underside of the unit), but this can be changed manually after the WiFi router has been set up. If you use the Super Hub – the default SSID is 'virginmediaxxxxxxx', where each 'x' represents a digit. The default SSID for the Super Hub 2 / Super Hub 2ac is VMxxxxxxxx2G or VMxxxxxxxx5G. The default SSID for the Hub 3.0 is VMxxxxxxx.

One way of protecting your WiFi network is to stop the transmission of your SSID. This makes your WiFi network invisible to neighbours and other people might be within its reach. You should be able to connect more people to your network, but they’ll only be able to access it they know the SSID.

Stopping the broadcast of your SSID doesn’t guarantee that your WiFi network is secure, and isn’t a substitute for using a strong encryption method (see above). But it can provide an extra layer of protection. A hacker with WiFi ‘snooping’ software could still pick up on the signal being broadcast by your WiFi router.

To disable the broadcast of your WiFi router's SSID, you need to access your WiFi router's administration interface. The details you’ll need are printed on the underside of your router or on the side of the Hub.

For more details on how to disable the broadcast of the SSID see, Turn off the broadcast of the WiFi network name (SSID) on your Virgin Media Hub

Set a password for your WiFi router's administration interface

Most WiFi routers have a default username and password that can be used to access a set of administration screens that control the behaviour and operation of the router.

To reduce the chances of anyone other than you accessing this administration interface and changing the router's settings, you’ll need to change the default password.

To set the password for your WiFi router's administration interface, you first need to access the interface using the default username and password, which should be printed on the base of your WiFi router or on the side of the Hub.

For more information on changing your Hub's settings page password, see Changing your Virgin Media Hub's settings page password

Use MAC address-based access control

This is an advanced security option that allows computers and other devices to connect to a WiFi network – but only if they have an authorised MAC address. This is a series of letters and numbers used to identify network devices. MAC addresses are usually written in pairs, with colons (or sometimes hyphens) as separators. For example, a MAC address could look like this:

04:1F:64:EF:A9:4D
or
04-1F-64-EF-A9-4D

WiFi routers can be instructed to allow connections only from a list of MAC addresses that you supply. To use this method, you need to gather together a list of all the MAC addresses of the computers and devices you wish to authorise on your WiFi network, and enter the details into your WiFi router's administration interface.

To find out how to do this on your Virgin Media Hub, check Setting up MAC filtering on your Virgin Media Hub.

To find out the MAC address of a Windows XP (or later) machine, follow these steps:

  1. Type cmd and click OK.
  2. Type ipconfig /all and press Enter.
  3. Details of each installed adapter will be displayed. Look in the Physical Address section of your WiFi adapter for the MAC address, written in the style above.

To find out the MAC address of a Mac OS X machine, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Mac HD > Applications > Utilities.
  2. Double-click Network Utility.
  3. Choose the network interface that relates to your WiFi connection – if you're using built-in WiFi technology, the option is likely to be labelled AirPort (en1).
  4. Look at the Hardware Address for the MAC address, written in the style above.

To find out the MAC addresses of other WiFi-capable devices, consult the documentation that came with those devices. Some of these devices may have their MAC addresses printed on the case.

As with other security methods, it’s still possible for a hacker to gain access to MAC address-based access control. Nevertheless, each security feature you add protects your WiFi network a little bit more.

Install a firewall

Using a firewall helps control the types of data that are permitted to enter and leave your computer and WiFi network. Computers and networks that aren’t protected by firewalls are far less secure than those that are.


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