What is Wifi? Everything You Need to Know

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WiFi is something you probably use in your everyday life, but do you know what WiFi is or how it works? Understanding your Internet connection can help you troubleshoot issues, as well as keep your WiFi network safe from hackers. Our guide makes sure all of your questions are answered.

What Is WiFi?

WiFi is short for Wireless Fidelity, and is the same as your Wireless Local Area Network, or WLAN. WiFi is technology we use to connect computers, smartphones, and other devices to the Internet. Simply put, WiFi is the radio signal sent from an Internet router to your device, which your device then converts into data. The device then sends a signal back to the router, which connects to the Internet by wire or cable.

How Does WiFi Work?

WiFi works similarly to other wireless devices by using radio signals to send data between devices. These radio signals are different from those used by car radios, cell phones, and weather radios: WiFi transmits at frequencies of 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz. This frequency is considerably higher than the frequencies used for cell phones, radios and televisions. The higher frequency allows the signal to carry more data.

How to Turn on WiFi

How to enable your WiFi varies by device, but these general instructions for turning on WiFi on your computer will guide you. First, be sure your router or modem is turned on and connected. If you can't find any answers here, it's always helpful to refer to your computer's manual.

1. Turn WiFi switch or button to "On"

Some computers have a WiFi switch that can be turned on or off. If your computer has such a switch or button, you’ll most likely find it on the front or just above your keyboard. When it's on, the button will typically light up in blue or green.

2. Turn on WiFi in settings

After checking that your WiFi is switched on, read your user manual to switch on WiFi in the computer's settings. You’ll most likely find this in a chapter labeled "Network Settings" or "Wireless Settings." Once this is turned on, you should be able to connect your device to WiFi.

How to Secure WiFi

Unlike cable connections, WiFi systems extend outside of your home. Once the password for access is shared with people outside of your residence it's hard to manage who has access to your personal WiFi network. To combat this, you should consider making some changes and establishing routines that protect you from hackers and more. Below are some easy but essential tasks to enhance the security of your WiFi network.

1. Choose password that's hard to guess

Complicated passwords that are hard to memorize are good for network security. You'll inevitably give the WiFi password to other members of your household and guests, but you don't have power over who they might share that password with. Creating a complicated password makes it more difficult to share and also impossible to guess. Make stealing your WiFi a little harder for people trying to guess your password by using a string of random characters.

2. Change your network name

In most cases, your router’s manufacturer will install the same administration software on all of its routers. This uniformity makes things easy for hackers. Free network detection software allows hackers to see all the surrounding wifi networks. Each network is identified by a name, called an SSID. Manufacturers often put the brand name and model in the SSID. If you got a router from your Internet service provider, they might have changed the SSID to show their company name. If you purchased the router yourself, the SSID will probably include the manufacturer name or model. A hacker will use the information to find the default username and password. When changing the name of your network, avoid using identifiers such as your name, address, or telephone number.

3. Keep your router's firmware updated

The manufacturer should update your firmware automatically. However, just as you should make a habit of changing your WiFi password monthly, you should also frequently check for updates. Another alarm for firmware updates are news stories that cover major virus attacks. Viruses spread because a hacker found a security weakness. Hackers can detect these weaknesses sometimes before technology companies. The outbreak of a virus will cause the manufacturer to check its firmware to see if it's not vulnerable to an attack. So, check on the website of your router’s manufacturer whenever these news stories break to see if they have issued a security patch.

4. Turn on your firewall

Chances are that your wifi router has a firewall on it, but have you turned it on? Browse through your settings to see if you can find your firewall. If not, visit customer support pages on your manufacturer's website. Wifi routers operate a system called a Network Address Translation (NAT). This address means each computer on your network is given an address only known to the router. The NAT system prevents hackers from picking out the addresses of individual devices on the WiFi network. Unfamiliar users are blocked before they ever reach your devices.

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