Tips on Safe Wireless Networks

Setting up a secure network is one thing -- keeping it secure is another. All your hard work will go to waste if you aren't careful about how you use the Internet. But if you follow a few guidelines, you'll greatly reduce your chances of compromising your network's security.

The first tip is to avoid clicking on hyperlinks in e-mail or instant messages, particularly if you don't recognize the name of the person sending it to you. The link may lead you to a site hosting malware. It might even initiate a malware download. Tell your friends and family that you avoid clicking on hyperlinks unless you are sure they lead to a safe destination.

Sometimes links on Web pages can also lead to malware. You might click on a link thinking you're going to one site when you're really going to another. Some malware designers will go so far as to create a copy of a legitimate Web page and use it to host their malware. It's called spoofing. Fortunately, it's not that common -- most legitimate sites are quick to take action when they discover a spoofed version.

If you want to make sure you're visiting the right Web site, you shouldn't rely on hyperlinks at all. The most reliable way to reach the site you want is to type the URL into your browser's address bar. Even this method isn't completely foolproof, but it's the most reliable way to make sure you go to the site you want to visit.

Another thing to watch out for are peer-to-peer services. These services allow you to download files hosted on other users' computers. Most of these services rely on users to share files. Usually, the service will create a shared folder. Any file within that folder is fair game -- other users of the service can download a copy of it. If you aren't careful, you could allow unfettered access to all the files on your computer. If you store any private information on your machine, it might not be private for long.

As long as you're cautious when you set up a peer-to-peer service, you should be fine. Just keep in mind that by the very nature of the service, you'll be compromising your network's security.

It might seem like the tips we've shared in this article are excessive. But think about how important your personal information is to you. If someone else had access to that information, he or she could steal your identity. A malicious hacker could raid a banking account, ruin your credit rating or use your machines to attack a Web server or send out spam. While no network is ever 100 percent immune to attack, following these tips will greatly reduce the risk of a security compromise.

Learn more about computer networks and security on the next page.