Setting up a typical home network

Home networkHaving an excellent Internet connect is now seen as very important for many people. The members of a family in a home today might have some or all of the following: a number of different computers, a laptop or two, some phones, perhaps some tablet PCs, a smart TV, a content streaming device and other pieces of equipment. All of these might need an Internet connection to get the best out of them, or even just for basic functions.

Before we describe how a typical home network, we should know that every piece of hardware that we can use across a wireless network, every phone, laptop and tablet PC, for example, has what is called a MAC (Media Access Control) address in its settings. Have a look for your phone's MAC address - it's there somewhere! It typically looks like this: bf : b5 : 2a : ce : 4d : a1. Each MAC address is unique and before you set up a home network, it is a good idea to collect all of the MAC addresses of the devices you want to allow to use the network together. These can then be used to add another layer of security to your network. 

A typical home network might look like the diagram.

a) One of the main computers in the house has a network card.
b) This is connected by a cable to a wireless modem router, which is itself connected to the phone line by a cable. 
c) The router has some driver software that has been loaded up onto the computer so that the router can work.
d) The router has some 'Administrator' software that comes with it. This is opened on the computer.
e) In  the settings, a name is chosen for the network you are about to create and a password is also chosen.
f) There will be a section called 'Access Control' or similar somewhere in the software. The MAC addresses of the devices you want to allow to access the network are entered in this section.
g) You save these settings and you are done!

To connect a phone, laptop or any other wireless device, you simply select the name of the wireless network from the list of networks that the device can see and enter the password. If your MAC address is in the router's list, you will be given wireless access. If your MAC address is not in the list, you won't, even though you know the password! MAC addresses are a very powerful way of making sure that only those devices you know about can get access to your wireless connection. After all, you don't want just anyone to use your Internet as you don't know what they are doing! If they are doing something illegal, it might be traced back to your Internet connection and your house!

Q1. Why is it important to set up security properly on a home network?
Q2. What does 'MAC' stand for?
Q3. What is a MAC address?
Q4. What is meant by 'Access Control' on a network and how are MAC addresses used to achieve this on a home network?
Q5. How do you know what the name of a network is and the password for the network that you want to use?

Extension tasks
a) Find out the MAC addresses of all the devices you own which have wireless access. They will all have a MAC address - you just have to find it. If you are struggling, type into Google something like 'Where is the MAC address for Nokia 34GLK phone'.
b) If you have a home network, ask whoever set it up at home if they used Access control. If they are not sure, they probably didn't. Ask them to open the Administrator software and have a look. They could even then add this extra layer of security. They need to collect together all the MAC addresses of devices they want to allow before they begin.