Thursday, 14 October 2010

How to check your Wi-Fi security for free

With the news that around 25% of UK domestic wireless routers could be running unsecured or with weak encryption hitting the mainstream media, no doubt lots of techies around the country will be getting panic calls from friends and family this evening.

Checking Wi-Fi security is easy if you have access to the router and know what you're doing, but what about walking granny through the procedure? Wi-Fi scanning tools such as Inssider have the same problem. There is one handy alternative that could help, as long as the person on the other end of the phone can use a web browser. Cisco's free Wireless Networks Security Scan (powered by Cisco-owned Pure Networks) works a treat in most cases.

Click on the 'Start Scan' link and you'll be prompted to install an ActiveX add-on (it only works with Internet Explorer 6 or later). Accept this (choose 'install this add-on for all users' in the Info Bar warning) and the scan will start. It takes a few minutes to complete the scan before presenting a report.

I've found it's not very accurate on a lot of things (it doesn't recognise MS Security Essentials, for instance), but the main point here is that it tells you what the Wi-Fi security settings are. Click on the 'Wireless' seciton under the scan summary at the left for the Wi-Fi encryption details. OK, it classes WEP as 'secure', but at least it's a quick check to tell you what kind of security is in place without firing up the router interface or poking into Windows wireless settings. It also tells you whether the SSID has been changed from the default, although in my case it was wrong, probably because it's a new router model.

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