The short answer to the question above is that it is hard enough that your secured Internet connection isn’t going to be targeted by any Tom, Dick and Harry who happen to be in listening distance of your computer. However, for an advanced hacker, it’s really not all that difficult to steal your secured Internet connection, thus causing all kinds of problems for you (unless you take precautions). Here’s what you need to know:
Keep a Secured Internet Connection at Home
First, if you have a home router which isn’t secure, you should change it into a secured Internet connection right now. It’s not just that people who are using your connection could potentially steal your data as you transmit it wireless over the airwaves. Even the average computer user is able to connect to an unsecured wireless Internet connection.
Why does that matter? Because ultimately, those connections lead back to you. That means that if your neighbor downloads child pornography or even just a movie which is copyrighted and for which the studio gets a court order to find out who was downloading it, you are responsible. And sadly, even if you ultimate clear your name it will take time and money to do so. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that only you are able to use your connection.
Wireless Internet Connections Aren’t Very Secure Either
Now, let’s get back to the issue at hand. Your secured Internet connection may not be as secure as you think it is. This is especially true if you happen to be using WiFi in a public place as these connections travel through the airwaves without any encryption whatsoever. This means that when you type your password into your bank account, someone else with a nearby computer can easily pluck the numbers out of the air and steal your money. The good news is that this does require specialized knowledge and equipment. The bad news however is that for the average hacker, this is easy to do.
On the other hand, when using one of the better secured Internet connections, such as a WPA 128 bit encrypted connection, you are generally fairly safe from all but the most determined hackers. This is because these kinds of connections use random number algorithms which are extremely difficult to crack with an ordinary computer. The NSA could probably crack your encryption if they wanted to, but they’d have to devote a significant amount of computer power to doing so and they’re not going to do it because you have a few dollars in your bank account.
Passwords Are Important Though
The bigger issue with a secured Internet connection is the password issue. The single most common password used in the United States today is, amazingly, “password.” This, along with the 12345 and “secret” passwords are the easiest ways for people to break your encryption – much easier than trying to break through a secured Internet connection’s encryption algorithm. Therefore, it’s important to keep a proper password which is actually hard to break. Using regular words isn’t a good idea either unless you make it a pass phrase, because random word generators are able to crack such passwords relatively easily (this is why some services will lock you out if you enter your password incorrectly three times – to protect you from such random word generators).
The best passwords then are either random characters and letters (i.e. “76hIg786(&&*UG&^*JUih7;-0” is a great password which can’t be cracked by conventional means). The trouble is, such passwords are very hard to remember. Therefore, an alternative is to use a pass phrase to keep your secured Internet connection properly secured. For example, thisisapassphrasewhichisprettygoodbecauseit’squitelongandthereforedifficulttousearandomwordgeneratortoguess. The nice thing about a pass phrase is that it’s also easier to remember, so be sure to use at least that when securing your Internet connections.
George Gallagher is a writer for technology and education. He is currently working with private student loans and helping parents find the best match for their children.