WiFi - A WiFi network is a wireless network provided by a device using the 802.11 standard. If you are connecting to a LinkSys or Netgear router wirelessly, then you are using a WiFi network. More info can be found at: Wikipedia.
WiFi differs from TaosNet's fixed wireless, in that TaosNet's fixed wireless uses a proprietary wireless system to provide a wireless link to the Internet via single wired device, almost always an antenna mounted on our client's roof. WiFi by contrast provides access to a Local Area Network (LAN) via multiple wireless devices.
Since WiFi is a technology that affects your LAN it is important to make sure that it is secured. An excellent article by Bradley Mitchell can be found here. A summary of this article, and how it relates to TaosNet customers is:
- Change Default Administrator Passwords - Leaving the default password in your WiFi access point allows anybody with the knowledge to gain control of your private network. This could be a neighbor that connects wirelessly, or more likely, a virus or a compromised website. TaosNet changes the default passwords on the routers that are installed to protect our customers' networks.
- Turn on WPA / WEP Encryption - Because of the wireless nature of WiFi's anybody can "listen" to the data passing through the air. Encryping the WiFi protects you from these listeners by allowing you to "speak" a different language that they do not understand. TaosNet enables and recommends WPA Encryption by default for our users. It is important to note that WPA / WEP encryption is no longer considered secure and you should use at the very least WPA2 encryption.
- Change the Default SSID (Network Name) - The SSID is the indentification name of the WiFi network. Having the default SSID is an invitation for some people to try to break into your network. They think, "you made one configuration error, let's see if there are more." TaosNet changes the SSID for all of its customers. The SSID is also different between TaosNet customers.
- Enable Firewalls on Each Computer and the Router - Firewalls are a good way to keep out basic attacks. TaosNet employs the use of firewalls to protect our customers, but as the article points out is also a good idea to consider installing and running personal firewall software on your computer. If you choose to install a personal firewall, you NEED to learn how to use the firewall, as well as the restrictions that the firewall will place on your daily activities. For firewalls to be effective, you will need to interact with the firewall in a meaningful manner.
- Enable MAC Address Filtering/Disable SSID Broadcast - These two options make it more difficult for someone to even connect to your network. If you are very security conscious, these options are for you. The downside is that it makes it very difficult to for your friends (or even your new laptop) to connect to your network even if they have the proper encryption passwords. Most casual users do not need to do this for this reason.
- Do Not Auto-Connect to Open WiFi Networks and Turn Off the Network (router) During Extended Periods of Non-Use - These are personal habits that can make your overall Internet experience safer. You should never connect to Ad-Hoc networks unless you really know what you are doing.
Another article about a related subject (coffee shop style WiFis) can be found here. This article talks about some good habits when using coffee shop WiFi's. Because of the intentional open nature of coffee shop "hotspots", encryption is usually not enabled. This should lead you to be more cautious when using hotspots.
Since WiFi is a radio wave based technology, the quality is greatly impacted by the strength of the signal. The strength is location dependent (strength decreases by the square of the distance) and there are various factors that can contribute to a poor signal. Anna Kucirkova writes about signal strength and how to extend your WiFi network to get around some of the distance limitations in her artible All You Need to Know to Boost Your WiFi with WiFi Extender. Keep in mind that if you do use a WiFi extender to boost your network, security becomes even more important since your network has become even more accessible.