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Why Start a Network?
What are the benefits of having your own network? With a network, you can:

• Share your high-speed Internet connection
• Share your music, pictures, and other files
• Secure your computers against Internet threats
• Play head-to-head games online
• Share your printer

If you have more than one computer, a home network will let you share resources among them. Any computer can print on a shared printer located anywhere in the house. And your computers can share all kinds of files—music, digital pictures, and documents. Keep all your digital music on one computer, and listen to it anywhere in the house. Organize and keep all of your family's digital pictures in one place, so it's easy to find the ones you want and make backup copies on CD-R. Use extra free space on one computer when another's hard drive starts to fill up. Play network computer games either head-to-head, or on a team.

If you sign up for a cable or DSL Internet connection, a home network will allow all your computers to share the line. Everybody can keep a private e-mail account and surf the web at the same time. You can also play online computer games with friends and opponents from around the world.

Plus, the same router that lets you share Internet access also helps to protect your computers from Internet threats.

Router Security: NAT, SPI, and VPN

Linksys routers offer a variety of security features. To pick the router that offers the level of security you want for your network, you need to know about the two levels of router security:

BASIC
Network Address Translation (NAT) Technology - Prevents hackers from seeing (and attacking) your network address while you're surfing the web.

ADVANCED
Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI) Firewall - Inspects packets of information coming into your system to make sure they are not an attack from a hacker.

Virtual Private Network (VPN) - Enables communication with another computer or your company's network over the Internet with a secure, encrypted connection.

NAT Technology
NAT technology translates IP addresses of a local area network to a different IP address for the Internet. Each computer on your network has a local IP address. When the router gets the data transmission to forward out to the Internet, the router puts a different IP address on the transmission. This way, whoever receives the data transmission doesn't know what the actual IP address of the computer is, so the computer is hidden, safe from prying eyes.

SPI Firewall
The term firewall is a blanket term describing security measures that protect a network. Because the router is your network's connection to the Internet, a router with a built-in firewall protects your entire local network, like an alarm system for your house. SPI is a type of firewall that inspects incoming data packets to make sure they correspond to an outgoing request. Unsolicited—and possibly harmful—packets are rejected.

VPN
When your data transmission leaves your local network, the data itself is not protected, unless you establish a VPN. When you use a VPN, you are creating a secure connection between your network and another one over the Internet. VPNs are frequently used by businesses. Here are a few examples:
A branch office has a VPN connection with the corporate headquarters office.
A telecommuter has a VPN connection from his home office to the local office.
Using her laptop, a corporate trainer who's on the road has a VPN connection from the hotel room to the office.

Picking the Right Router for You
Your choice of router depends on what capabilities your network requires and what level of security you require for peace of mind. Every Linksys router provides NAT technology so every network has a basic level of network security.

Linksys has several options if you need advanced security. Several of our routers have a built-in SPI firewall, including the Firewall Router with 4-Port Switch/VPN Endpoint (BEFSX41), Wireless-G Broadband Router (WRT54G), and Wireless A+G Broadband Router (WRT55AG). When traveling, protect your PC with the USB VPN & Firewall Adapter (USBVPN1), which offers SPI and VPN capability in a portable form.

If your small office requires secure connections via VPN, the VPN Router (BEFVP41) features the capability of creating up to 70 simultaneous tunnels. For home use, the aforementioned Firewall Router (BEFSX41) also supports 2 VPN tunnels. Routers without built-in VPN endpoint functionality can be supplemented by VPN endpoint software applications for PCs.

Protection from the Perils of the Internet
Q: How do you protect your network from Internet threats?
A:Use antivirus software and firewall technology.
Every networked computer that has Internet access is—to some degree—at risk, so Internet security is important to consider when you create a network.

Viruses and Antivirus Software
There are many different types of Internet threats, but the most common problem is viruses. In brief, viruses are programs that run on your computer without your permission. Depending on the virus, there may be no effect at all, or the virus could cause damage to your computer, which may even be severe enough to require the re-installation of its operating system. These days, most viruses spread via e-mail. If you open an infected attachment, then you activate the virus.

To protect a computer from viruses, use antivirus software. If the software detects a virus, it will take action to protect your computer. Viruses are constantly created, so it is important to update your software's virus definition file on a regular basis. Kept current, your software will then be able to recognize and remove the viruses that come your way.

Unauthorized Access and Firewall Technology
Other Internet problems are less common. For example, there are hackers that try to access computers without permission. Depending on their intentions, the damage can vary from mild pranks to theft of financial data. The odds of a hacker wasting his or her time on your personal network are slim, but it can happen.

To protect against unauthorized access, use firewall technology. The term firewall is a blanket term describing security measures that protect a network and are implemented in hardware or software. The hardware firewall in a firewall router protects an entire network. Software firewalls implemented on individual computers protect the computers themselves. If you have both a firewall router and firewalls installed on your computers, the different firewalls will work at the same time; they won't interfere with each other. (Note: Firewall software may slow down a computer's performance, depending on the individual computer's tasks and processing capabilities.)

Security Solutions
Fortunately, protecting your network from viruses and unauthorized access is easy. To control what goes on in your network, Linksys offers protection through your router's built-in security features and Symantec's Norton Internet Security™ software. To learn about the security features available on Linksys routers, click here.

Wireless Security
With no cables to run, wireless networks are convenient and easy to install, so homes with high-speed Internet access are adopting them at a rapid pace. However, wireless networking is inherently risky because it sends information over radio waves. Like signals from your cellular or cordless phones, signals from your wireless network can also be intercepted.

Four Steps You Need to Take:
Networking makes it easy to share Internet access and data. But you wouldn't want to share your information with just anyone. With a wireless network, your information is traveling through the airwaves—not physical wires, so anyone within range can "listen in" on your network. Here are four essential security measures you should take to secure your wireless network.
Change the default SSID (network name).
Disable the SSID broadcast option.
Change the default password needed to access a wireless device.
Enable MAC address filtering.

1.) Change the default SSID:
Your wireless devices have a default SSID set by the factory. The SSID is the name of your wireless network, and it can be anything you wish. Linksys wireless products use linksys as the default SSID. Hackers know these defaults and can try them to join your network. Change the network's SSID to something unique, and make sure it doesn't refer to the networking products you use.
As an added precaution, be sure to change the SSID on a regular basis, so any hacker who may have figured out your network's SSID in the past will have to figure out the SSID again and again. This will deter future intrusion attempts.

2.) Disable SSID broadcast:
By default, most wireless networking devices are set to broadcast the SSID, so anyone can easily join the wireless network. But hackers will also be able to connect, so unless you're running a public hotspot, it's best to disable SSID broadcast.

3.) Change the default password needed to access a wireless device:
For wireless products such as access points and routers, you will be asked for a password when you want to change their settings. These devices have a default password set by the factory. (The Linksys default password is admin.) Hackers know these defaults and will try them to access your wireless device and change your network settings. To thwart any unauthorized changes, customize the device's password so it will be hard to guess.

4.) Enable MAC address filtering:
If your wireless products—such as access points and routers—offer it, enable MAC address filtering. The MAC address is a unique series of numbers and letters assigned to every networking device. With MAC address filtering enabled, wireless network access is provided solely for wireless devices with specific MAC addresses. This makes it harder for a hacker to access your network using a random MAC address.

There are other security measures you can take as well, but these four are the most essential. For more information on the latest, most secure encryption available, Wi-Fi Protected Access™ (WPA), click here. For more information on other security features and options, such as Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) encryption, and details on how to implement these four steps, refer to the User Guides for your wireless products.


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