Wireless networks are prime targets for hackers and cybercriminals, but many people overlook the importance of protecting their home Wi-Fi connections.
Data theft, malware, ransomware attacks and other security threats can all affect home networks and routers, even if connected devices and computers are protected with security software. The following steps are crucial for keeping your home network safe and protecting it from hackers.
Change the Administrator Credentials
Administrator credentials are used to change the settings on your router. Most routers come with default credentials, such as a username and password, but these are often easy to guess and could even be the same or similar to the credentials used by other people with the same router model. Therefore, it’s best to change the administrator credentials when you first set up the router.
Choose a New Network Name
The name of your home network is usually set automatically by the router. However, this default name often contains the manufacturer’s name or model number of your router, which can give potential hackers vital clues that make it easier for them to gain access to your connection. Knowing the make and model of your router will make it easier for hackers to identify and exploit known vulnerabilities. Choose a new network name that you will recognize, but avoid using any personal information, such as your name.
Check for Firmware Updates
Router manufacturers release firmware updates to patch up security flaws, bugs, and vulnerabilities, helping to protect against the newest threats. “However, you may need to install the updates manually, as many routers do not have an automatic update function” cybersecurity student, Edward Granlund advises. You should be able to access the updates through your router’s settings.
Install a Hardware Firewall
While many people use a firewall to protect their computer, few people use a separate one for their router. However, without a hardware firewall to protect the router, hackers can use malware and hardware vulnerabilities to access your data and take control of your router. Some routers come with a built-in firewall, although you may need to enable it through the settings menu. You can also use a third-party hardware firewall, but you will need to check the manufacturer’s website to see which firewalls are compatible with your router.
Encryption is crucial for keeping your home Wi-Fi safe, and so is the type of encryption used. When setting up a wireless network, you can usually choose between at least two or three different types of encryption, such as WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy), WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) and WPA2. WPA2 is currently the standard encryption used and offers more protection than WEP connections. However, recent security scares have highlighted flaws in the WPA2 protocol. Some router manufacturers have released firmware updates to address these deficiencies, but many routers remain vulnerable. Nevertheless, WPA2 is still considered to be the safest option for home networks. WPA3, a newer and more secure protocol, is currently being tested.
Set a Complex Password
One problem with home Wi-Fi connections is that users are often allowed to make an unlimited number of failed attempts to enter the network password. That means anyone close to your house can potentially try hundreds of different words, numbers, and combinations to crack your network password. Avoid using whole words in passwords, as they are too easy to guess. When setting the password for your home network, aim to use at least 16 characters, including numbers, symbols, uppercase and lowercase letters.
Disable Unnecessary Features
Most routers come with remote management features that allow you to access the console remotely. While this can be a useful feature for diagnosing problems, it can also make it easier for hackers to access your connection, so it’s best to disable remote connections unless you need to use them for a specific purpose.
Another feature that can leave your home Wi-Fi vulnerable to hackers is the UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) feature. UPnP is designed to make it easier for games consoles, televisions and other devices to connect to the network. However, many security experts advise users to disable UPnP, as it can be vulnerable to malware and used to alter essential security settings on your router.
Replace Your Router
Cheap routers, as well as the free ones that internet service providers give away, often contain minimal security features and are more vulnerable to hackers. “Upgrading your router to a newer model that comes with a firewall and other security features can help to keep your home network safe” says cybersecurity student, Edward Granlund.
Wi-Fi connections are vulnerable to data theft, malware, and hackers, but many people fail to protect their home network adequately. Taking a few extra steps to secure your home wireless connection can make all the difference and will help to protect against common security threats.