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General Info on Wi-Fi and Its Risks
Wireless (Wi-Fi) networks have become a synonym to computer networks and convenience today. It is hard to find a place in the city that doesn't offer access to a Wi-Fi network, usually for free. Even at home, it is now the most popular way of connecting a computer to the internet.
However slick and easy to use as these networks are, they are also somewhat risky. Especially nowdays that hackers have become more aggressive and mobile while they are looking for their Wi-Fi victims. Even if you have secured your network, some of these people might still break into it, just for the challenge this may offer to them. Nevertheless, computer security organizations are not sitting idly waiting for their rivals to exploit your network. Many companies have developed programs to help you monitor your Wi-Fi network's activity so that if someone hacks into your wireless property, you will become aware of it.
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An Explanation of Wi-Fi Network Auditing Software
When we say Wi-Fi network we mean a computer network. This usually comprises of a Wi-Fi router and a few computers or other devices that can connect with the router wirelessly. The router itself is connected to a modem device, which allows the network to have Internet access. Not all of the devices in the network have access to the Internet, however. Some of them (e.g. a printer) use the network just to connect to a computer. Many offices make use of this to allow several computers to share resources and to communicate with each other. A connection via a Wi-Fi network is usually faster than a connection through the Internet, though it is not as fast (or as reliable) as a wired connection.
Wi-Fi networks have certain vulnerabilities because they can be accessed by computers and other wireless devices that are not yours. As every device that connects to a Wi-Fi network leaves some kind of "digital trace" aka traffic or data, its presence can be mapped on the network. By monitoring the network's traffic you can make sure that only your own devices make use of it. In other words, if Joe the hacker decides to pop into your network, you'll be aware of it if you monitor your network's traffic. Since this is a very tedious and often difficult task, there are special programs that have been developed to do it for you.
Remember that a wireless security program like that ones we'll mention in the following section is not an all-in-one security program usually. This means that even if you get a very good auditing software, your computer may still be vulnerable to viruses and other malicious software (aka malware), so it is recommended that you look into buying a program for protection from those threats as well.
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Recommended Auditing Software
These are some auditing programs you can purchase. We do not get any commission or other benefits by listing them here and we recommend them as a starting point to let your in the know of what's out there.
- SecPoint ($195+)
- Netgate Internet Security 2009 ($50)
- Nsasoft Network Security Auditor ($69)
It is also recommended that you take a look of your actual network security needs before purchasing any software. Although a Wi-Fi network auditing program may cover many aspects of security, some may be stronger than others. Also, if you are a novice in computers, you might find that one with a better GUI would be more suitable for you than one that is more advanced. Download a demo version of the program you are thinking of buying before taking out your credit card and devote some time in checking it out. There is no single program that is the best for every user, but you may find one that is the best for your specific Wi-Fi network security needs.
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Summary of Key Points
A Wi-Fi network is a very convenient way of enabling your electronic devices to communicate with each other and your computer(s) to access the web. However, you need to keep in mind that, like your house, they need to be watched over so that you can keep intruders at bay. One way to do that is through the use of specialized computer programs known as Wi-Fi network auditing software.
We have recommended three choices to you that can help you start your search for the best program. There is no absolute best program that makes every user happy (to the best of our knowledge), but there might be one that is the best for your specific Wi-Fi network security needs. This, or any other network auditing program, does not guarantee that your computer will be safe, however. You'll want to also keep your network secure with wireless encryption and use anti-malware software.
- Netgate Internet Security 2009 official website: http://www.fileguru.com/apps/wifi_securitywifi_security/p4
- Nsasoft Network Security Auditor official website: http://nsauditor.com/
- Photo by Dana Spiegel: http://www.flickr.com/photos/danaspiegel/320635794/sizes/m/in/photostream/
(all websites were last accessed in August 2011)
- SecPoint official website: http://auditsecuritywireless.com