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    4 ways to create a secure wireless network

    Wireless networks in your office are a must, but can also be easily exploited if you don’t take precautions.

    It isn’t hard to set up security for the wireless router in your basement: change the SSID, pick a strong password and perhaps install VPN software for remote access. But securing wireless networks in a business environment is much more demanding.

    Dental offices must:

    Related article: Are you vulnerable to exploits?

    • Provide the basics — secure wireless access points and protect remote and mobile employees;
    • Provide controlled access for guests and contractors;
    • Deploy and manage multiple wireless access points in the office;
    • Integrate wireless traffic into the practice’s core network security infrastructure.

    1. The basics

    Certain security practices are essential for wireless networks of all types. These include:

    • Strong encryption. Preferably a WPA2. An eavesdropper can pick up wireless signals from the street or a parking lot and break older security algorithms like WEP in minutes using tools readily available on the web.
    • Complex passwords. Cybercriminals can use cloud computing resources to test millions of passwords in minutes, so wireless passwords should be 10 characters or longer and include numbers and special characters.
    • Unique SSIDs. SSIDs are part of the password used for WPA2 encryption. Hackers use “rainbow tables” to test common SSIDs, so administrators should pick unique network names (but not ones that identify their organization).
    • VPNs for remote access. Virtual private networks are essential to protect communication from mobile employees (who can put a VPN client on their devices) and remote offices (which can use economical, point-to-point VPN connections).

    Employee education and published policies. Employees need to be educated on secure networking practices. In companies with bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, this includes acceptable uses of personal devices for company business. Practices that publish policies and systematize training not only improve security but also enhance their compliance posture by showing auditors that they’re taking action to protect confidential information.

    2. Provide controlled access for guests

    Wireless routerUncontrolled access to wireless networks is a common security issue. Often, patients, suppliers and other office visitors are given IDs and passwords that provide perpetual access to internal networks. Stories abound of temporary staff whose passwords remained valid for weeks or months after they moved on to other employers.

    Some organizations address this problem by providing a separate guest network with limited access to core IT systems. This approach addresses the issue of transient guests, but it’s expensive and not always useful for temps and long-term guests. Another approach is to find tools that restrict guest access to appropriate periods of time and place limits on their activities.

    3. Manage multiple access points in central offices

    Deploying and managing wireless access points can be time-consuming. Large offices may require many access points to cover all office areas, conference rooms and meeting spaces used by employees. Multiple wireless networks for different groups and for guests can add to the work.

    Related article: 6 myths about data encryption

    Not only does complex administration raise staffing costs, but it also increases the likelihood of accidental misconfigurations that cause security vulnerabilities.

    Dental offices need to find tools that simplify tasks such as deploying new access points, checking on the status and settings of these devices, and changing parameters. A best-case scenario is to find tools that don’t require specialized knowledge or a long learning curve, so the work can be done by network administrators rather than wireless networking specialists.

    Dr. Lorne Lavine
    Dr. Lorne Lavine, founder and president of Dental Technology Consultants, has more than 30 years invested in the dental and dental ...

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