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Have router and network set up but confused by security and firewall o


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#1
benawhile

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Hello

I have recently set up a home network comprising a desktop and laptop, both running windows XP pro SP3, and a Netgear router WGR614v6. My internet service is via external cable modem.

The desktop has a network card but no wireless, the laptop has wireless.

My pc is currently set up with only a single administrator account with no password, to save time from startup to desktop. I am the only user.

Simple file sharing is enabled in Windows Explorer >“Folder Options”

My intent is for my two computers to be able to see each other and interchange files and folders from “my documents

My questions are:

I have been told my router does not support WPA2-AES. Can you tell me which section of my network is vulnerable by having to use WPA-PSK, which it does support? For example what part of my network can a hacker see by hacking my wireless network?
Can they see along the ethernet connection to my desktop pc via the router? And what difference would it make if the Windows Firewall was completely disabled? Is this advisable?
I have got the impression from some information on the web that a router is a firewall in itself and so a software firewall should not be needed.
I would like to use “Zone Alarm” but I do not understand whether there is any point to this now, if the router is acting as a firewall, and the wireless network can be hacked anyway. Can you tell me any more about this?

With thanks

Ben McDonnell
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#2
dsenette

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I have been told my router does not support WPA2-AES. Can you tell me which section of my network is vulnerable by having to use WPA-PSK, which it does support? For example what part of my network can a hacker see by hacking my wireless network?
Can they see along the ethernet connection to my desktop pc via the router?

the WPA key (WPA2-AES or otherwise) encrypts the channel/password used to connect to the network wirelessly. if someone breaks the wireless encryption (no matter what level you're using) they they will be able to connect to your wireless network, at which point they will have the exact same access to your network as any computer that you connect wirelessly.

WPA-PSK is less secure than WPA2-AES, but it's still more secure than WEP. MOST people don't REALLY have to worry about someone cracking their WPA-PSK key in a home setting. if someone is driving down the street or in a neighboring house or whatever and they're trying to get free internet, they're not going to try to crack your network because the probability of someone else nearby not having any security is pretty high. plus it's a bit of work just to get a free connection. you could run into someone trying to break in for malicious purposes (as opposed to just trying to get free service), but it's not terribly likely that this would happen unless you've made a local nerd angry.

And what difference would it make if the Windows Firewall was completely disabled? Is this advisable?
...
I have got the impression from some information on the web that a router is a firewall in itself and so a software firewall should not be needed.
I would like to use “Zone Alarm” but I do not understand whether there is any point to this now, if the router is acting as a firewall, and the wireless network can be hacked anyway. Can you tell me any more about this?

unfortunately the windows firewall that's built in is pretty useless and shouldn't be relied upon for full security.

SOME routers do have SOME firewalling capabilities, but it's generally not automatic and it's definitely not all inclusive as far as making sure you're 100% protected (or as close as you can get). your research is slightly off base as to the hardware firewall in a router (if it's available) making a software firewall useless. in my experience it's best to have both in place (especially if the hardware firewall is the one that's built into a home router).

having both will give you that extra level of protection. IF someone did gain undesired access to your wireless network through your router, your computers would still be protected by the software firewall that's in place.
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#3
benawhile

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Thank you for this, can I conclude that I should use a third party firewall like Zone Alarm, which I used before but disabled while setting up the network?
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#4
Father0fNine

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Yes, have a third party firewall. Period. I think this quote from dsenette sums it up very well:

having both will give you that extra level of protection. IF someone did gain undesired access to your wireless network through your router, your computers would still be protected by the software firewall that's in place.


Wireless networking was never designed to be secure and it is not. Firewalls on computers equipped with wireless networking is more important than American Express... Don't leave home without it! There are people who go around just looking for networks to hack into. Sometimes for the mere thrill. Sometimes with worse intentions.

I also found people sitting at the local airport looking for people who would connect to their computers using wireless so that they could infect them. Really nasty people in my book. Install a firewall to keep yourself safe.

Zone alarm is one. Here are two others: Sunbelt-Kerio and Comodo Free Firewall. If you chose to install Comodo, be sure to uncheck the box for the anti virus and anti spyware software.
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