Wireless routers are 100 percent safe until you turn them on. After power-up, though, be prepared to protect your network if you don't want intruders to track you. Modern routers and security software can help you navigate cyberspace securely, but you must take a few precautions to ensure that other people can’t hack into your network without your knowledge.

Someone May Be Watching You

Like radio transmitters, wireless networks broadcast information over through the air. Anyone can download a program that captures network traffic. If people within range of your network have the right software, knowledge and time, they can track you on the Internet. While this privacy invasion may be annoying, it can become costly if they record sensitive information that you enter on websites. Identify theft and financial loss can occur if someone else learns your credit card number or login password to an online bank.

Advanced Tracking Methods

Don't think that neighbors are the only ones who can monitor your network traffic. A hacker with a laptop can drive or walk by your home or business and connect to your network if your wireless signal can reach them. In addition to tracking you on the Web, intruders could install malicious software on your computer. If other computers reside on your network, malware can spread from computer to computer and infect your entire system. If someone installs a keylogger program on your computer, that software can give the intruder even more tracking capabilities because keyloggers work on and off the Web. They can record every keystroke you make and send that information to hackers.

Secure Your Password

Follow a few simple safety rules to protect your Internet privacy and keep your computer safe from malware. If you make it difficult for intruders to guess your network password, you make it more difficult for them to tap into your system. Change your router's default password because some hackers may know what those passwords are. Many companies distribute wireless routers that have default passwords. Use strong password names that contain a mixture of characters and uppercase letters to make it difficult for intruders to guess. Many hackers use brute-force software methods that attempt to break into your system by trying every word in the dictionary.

Additional Security Tips

You can’t stop your router from transmitting information, but you can encrypt it to keep people from tracking you. Set your router to use the more secure WPA2 encryption method if your router provides it. While WEP encryption, found on older routers, can offer some protection, you'll stay safer by upgrading to a new model that provides WPA or WPA2 encryption. Protect yourself from malware infections by keeping your antivirus program updated and running at all times. If you disabled the Windows firewall, re-enable it or install some other firewall that can prevent unwanted programs from sending data into or out of your network.