It started out naively enough. You signed up for an internet service provider, got a modem-router, set up WiFi, and now you can get your laptop online without any hassle. Over time, your guests and/or clients added a smartphone and a tablet or two, and everything connected smoothly.
If it had ended there, life would be so easy. But it did not!
Every device connected to your conventional home routers with standard settings is considered part of the same local network. Whether it is a mobile device or a server connected to a wired or wireless network, all devices can communicate with each other. For obvious reasons, this doesn’t sound safe. Why so? Let’s look at these two cases first:
Case #1: If you run a business with a public Wi-Fi network, you definitely would not want your clients connected to the public network to access your systems and servers connected to the wired network. Perhaps you also do not want devices connected to the wired network to communicate with each other, as malicious users may try to gain access to unprotected network file shares. Plus, infected systems can potentially harm other exposed systems. All you want to do is provide internet access to your clients, and that’s it.
Case #2: If you are at home, chances are you have a single router with a multitude of devices connected to it. You may have a server connected to a wired network or only wired desktop systems that you want to be invulnerable. You may wish to give Wi-Fi access to your guests, but you do not want to provide them absolute access to your entire wired network as well as all your connected devices. For all you know, their computers may have malware or viruses which would pose a risk to your security. Again, you only want your guests to access the internet, nothing more than that.
For both these cases, a good approach is to limit the damage. And one of the best ways to do so is Wireless isolation.
Wireless isolation refers to a setting found on a Wi-Fi router that gives you the ability to lock your Wi-Fi network. This technique prevents devices connected to a single access point from communicating directly with each other as well as computers and servers in the wired network. It is ideal for businesses with public Wi-Fi networks or anyone who is just a little paranoid.
Various router manufacturers use different names for the same term such as Access Point (AP) Isolation, Client Isolation, Set Service Identification (SSID) Isolation, and more. Whatever the moniker, the feature is used as a method of making your wireless network secure.
Wireless isolation establishes a virtual network among wireless devices wherein every device is a distinct entity in its own right. This way network administrators can effortlessly dissociate potentially malicious network traffic, running on the publicly accessible point of a Wi-Fi network, from the main control network. As a result, the main network remains safe from unsolicited network traffic, which may be carrying Trojan horses, worms, and viruses.
In simple words, this feature restricts and confines clients using the same Wi-Fi network. They can neither communicate with each other nor with other devices connected to the wired network. The only thing they can access is the Internet.
Well, not really. Although your router’s guest network feature performs a similar function, Wireless Isolation and Guest Network features differ from each in certain aspects which we will discuss below:
A router’s Guest Wi-Fi network feature usually offers two separate Wi-Fi access points:
Every time you have a visitor at your place, you can set up a Guest Wi-Fi network, give your guests access to that network and keep them limited to this separate network. This way, they cannot interact with your primary wireless network or main wired network. The Guest Wi-Fi feature also gives you the authority to set separate restrictions and rules on that network. For example, you can limit internet usage on the Guest network to certain hours of the day for all devices except the ones connected to the primary network.
On the other hand, the Wireless Isolation feature is less fancy. You just have to enable the isolation option and all clients connected to your Wi-Fi network will be restricted from interacting with other devices on the local network. Through a network of firewall rules, clients connected to your Wi-Fi will only be able to get internet access without communicating with any other device or machine to the wired network.
Just like other features, Wireless Isolation can be enabled via your router’s web interface. Generally, the option is available under advanced wireless settings.
On some Linksys routers, the path to Wireless isolation feature looks like this:
On other routers, such as most NETGEAR models, you may find the Wireless Isolation feature under the Advanced Setup tab. As mentioned above, different router manufacturers refer to this feature in their own unique way, but it usually has “isolation” in its name.
Keep in mind, every router does not have this feature. So, if you purchased a cheap router lacking essential features like Wireless Isolation, first of all, don’t fret! There is a high possibility that a firmware upgrade with a range of capabilities may be available for your specific router model. And if that’s not the case, you can modify your existing router with DD-WRT open-source firmware. DD-WRT is a Linux-based project designed to replace a router manufacturer’s default firmware. It has the potential to boost your router’s current capabilities and equip it with additional features such as:
Well, enabling this feature often prevents certain types of wireless features from functioning. For example, Google Chromecast cannot communicate with other devices when the Wireless Isolation feature is enabled. The only way to fix this issue is to disable Wireless Isolation on your router and/or Wi-Fi extender.
When you decide to let guests and/or clients connect to your Wi-Fi network, it is critical to understand how these devices can be prevented from communicating with each other or accessing your secure network shared files. To assist you in this regard, we’ve shared detailed information that covers the essentials of Wi-Fi Isolation.
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Wireless Client Isolation is a security feature that prevents communication between wireless clients. This is a useful feature for BYOD SSIDs and guests, as it adds a level of security to limit threats and attacks between multiple devices connected to wireless networks.
To turn off the Wi-Fi Isolation feature, go to Wireless > Advanced Settings page via your router’s web interface, locate the Wi-Fi Isolation section and uncheck the relevant field. If that doesn’t work, refer to your router’s user manual to learn how to disable Wi-Fi Isolation feature on your specific router model.
In one word, yes. And if you run a business with a public Wi-Fi network, absolutely yes!
Here are some quick and simple tips to upgrade the security of your guest Wi-Fi network:
To hide your Wi-Fi, connect your computer to your router's Wi-Fi network and follow these steps:
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