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Belkin Wireless 802.11b Networking Review

Belkin Wireless 802.11b Networking Review - PCSTATS
Abstract: Data is sent over the radio waves at a frequency of between 2400~2483.5 MHz using Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS) technology.
 84% Rating:   
Filed under: Networking Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: Belkin Apr 16 2002   Max Page  
Home > Reviews > Networking > Belkin F5D6130

Protecting your Wireless network data

Enable WEP

Wired Equivalent Privacy is not perfect and unbreakable, but the level of security it provides is better than none, and cracking the 64bit or 128bit RC4 encryption algorithm can take a long time. As far as most users need be concerned, computers without a valid WEP key will be excluded from network traffic, safeguarding not only internal network data, but also your bandwidth.

Belkin's software is pretty straight forward and allows the user to choose from 64 or 128-bit WEP, set their own passphrase and if necessary manually enter four different encryption keys. As I understand it, the keys will automatically generate if you type in the passphrase alone, and only one key at a time will actually be used to encrypt data.

Note that it is important with the Belkin wireless equipment to set the WEP and passphrase on the wireless AP first, and then on the computers wireless network adaptor. You will see the WAP manager loose connection to the wireless AP, so to reconnect you then change the settings on the computers network adaptor - do it the other way around and your changes won't make it over to the wireless AP.

Rename the SSID

SSID stands for Service Set Identifier and this is basically like the group name on internal wired networks. If you have multiple wired networks it is important that all of the clients be on the same naming convention so they can roam around easily and gain access to the network group.

Again, when you are changing the settings on the wireless AP it is important to set those first, and then change the SSID on the computer. With the Belkin equipment the computer will momentarily loose the connection to the wireless AP once the settings have been made, but will regain it just as soon as the computer is configured to match. Since there is no web or hardwired connection to the wireless AP, everything must be done through Belkin's two pieces of software (one for WAP, and the other for network adaptor).

Renaming the SSID of the Belkin WAP is an important aspect because most users tend to either leave this at the default "WLAN" (which is publicly known and can potentially allow unknown users access to your WAN), or enter in their company, address or personal name. Renaming the SSID so that "ANY" or "WLAN" are not specified is the first major step, but if someone were wardriving and saw our wireless network labeled as ACCOUNTING they might be inclined to try and hack in. There wouldn't be much point to this as far as we are concerned, but if your companies SSID was "INTEL" I'd bet a lot of other people would be keenly interested.

Use MAC address filters

Every single network adaptor has something called a MAC address. MAC stands for Media Access Control and this alphanumeric series is unique for every bit of networking equipment. Filtering MAC addresses means that you can tell the Belkin wireless AP what addresses it will allow to connect. Basically this is like saying which serial numbers are allowed to have access to your WLAN. This is not a full proof way of securing a wireless network as some network adaptors allow the user to change MAC addresses, but it works will in conjunction with the other measures we've outlined.

Reset the default WAP password

Finally, the most basic way to protect your wireless network, and keep settings from being altered is to change the default password on the Belkin F5D6130 from "MiniAP" to something less well know. One of the nice things about this particular wireless AP is that if you forget the password down the road you can reset the unit and start fresh without too much hassle.

All of the wireless AP changes can be made from the wireless manager, and once you have made them your data will be in a much safer state as it flies through the airwaves to a distance of about 300ft (indoor radius).

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Contents of Article: Belkin F5D6130
 Pg 1.  Belkin Wireless 802.11b Networking Review
 Pg 2.  Installation, Rough At The Start
 Pg 3.  — Protecting your Wireless network data
 Pg 4.  Talking about signal strength
 Pg 5.  Conclusions

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