FTC Advises: Protect Your Wireless Network to Protect Yourself

Wireless Security Tips Now on OnGuardOnline.gov and AlertaenLinea.gov

For Your Information

Wireless Internet access can free you from the confines of cords, but not from the need for security. Without taking the proper precautions, it’s easy for others to use your wireless network connection to access the Internet, or even to access the information on your own computer. The Federal Trade Commission is introducing a new section of OnGuard Online at www.OnGuardOnline.gov/wireless to teach computer users how to protect their personal wireless network connections – and the computers on them – from unauthorized use. The information also is available in Spanish at www.AlertaenLinea.gov/inalambrico.

The FTC cautions that allowing strangers to “piggyback” on a personal wireless network actually could be risky. Hackers can take advantage of an unprotected wireless connection to access information on any personal computers on that network. And if an unauthorized person uses your network to commit a crime or send spam, the activity can be traced back to your account.

To help users learn about this seemingly complicated topic, OnGuardOnline.gov features a new game, “Invasion of the Wireless Hackers: Beat Back the Hack Attack,” where players keep hackers from infiltrating their networks by correctly answering questions about wireless security. The site also offers a glossary of terms and a list of essential tips for wireless network users, including:

  • Use encryption.
  • Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall.
  • Turn off identifier broadcasting.
  • Change the identifier on your router from the default.
  • Change your router’s pre-set password for administration.
  • Allow only specific computers to access your wireless network.
  • Turn off your wireless network when you know you won’t use it.
  • Don’t assume that public “hot spots” are secure.

The site also includes video tutorials, created by the Internet Education Foundation’s GetNetWise (www.GetNetWise.org), with step-by-step instructions for encrypting your system, activating your firewall, disabling identifier broadcasting, and other security measures for some of the most popular kinds of systems.

OnGuard Online is a multimedia, interactive consumer education campaign launched last fall by the FTC and a partnership of other federal agencies, the technology industry, and consumer advocacy organizations. The site covers online safety topics, including spyware, identity theft, spam, and cross-border scams. There is no copyright on the quizzes or other information on OnGuardOnline.gov; companies and organizations are encouraged to download the information and use it in their own computer security programs.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to thousands of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Contact Information

Media Contact:
FTC Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2180