11 keys to keeping your home WiFi network safe and secure

Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2019 @ 8:51 PM

Many people buy a wireless router, bring it home, plug it in, connect and then forget about their WiFi network.

When you fail to secure your wireless network, not only can someone connect and use your network for illegal or malicious activities, they can also steal private information like user names, passwords, bank account information, social security numbers and other personal information you have stored on your computers and devices.

Take a few minutes to secure your wireless network to ensure your safety.

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How to secure your home wireless network

1. Change your router password

Each router comes with a default password that allows you to log into the router. Change the password when you install the router and then change it again every few months.

Choose a strong password that is at least 8 characters long, the more the better. Use a combination of numbers, upper and lower case letters and symbols.

2. Disable remote administration

Remote administration allows you to log into the router remotely via the internet and make setting changes to the router. Most users never use this feature and unless you do use it, remote administration should be disabled.

3. Change your SSID

The SSID, short for Service Set Identifier, is the name of the wireless network. All routers have a default SSID. You must know the SSID to connect to a wireless network.

If there are several wireless networks in range and they have the same SSID, it can be confusing when trying to figure out which network is yours. Changing the SSID also adds a bit of security. If a hacker knows the brand of router you have based on the default SSID name, they are better able to know what vulnerabilities that particular brand of router has.

They can then use that information to potentially break into your network. When you change the default SSID, choose an SSID that is random. Do not use your name, address or any other personal information when creating the SSID.

Consider changing the SSID a few times a year.

4. Disable SSID Broadcast

The SSID of the router is broadcast to anyone within range of your wireless network. That means your neighbors and anyone close to the router can see your wireless network.

You want to disable SSID broadcast after you have setup and configured your router and successfully connected your computers and other devices to the router the first time. After you disable the SSID broadcast people looking at their list of available wireless networks will no longer see your network listed.

Disabling the SSID is not a strong security measure in itself but combined with other security actions, it adds an additional layer of security.

5. Use MAC filtering

MAC filtering allows you to specify which devices are allowed and not allowed to connect to your network. Each network card has a specific media access control address (MAC address) and no two hardware devices use the same MAC address.

A MAC address consists of six pairs of numbers separated by a colon. Wireless routers have a setting called MAC filtering. Using MAC filtering you can log into your router and enter the MAC addresses of the devices you would like to allow to connect to your wireless network. All other devices will be locked out.

You can also block specific MAC addresses from connecting to your router. Some hackers have mimicked MAC addresses, so don’t rely on this alone.

6. Use encryption

Encryption encodes the data transmitted between your computer and other devices and your wireless router. Use the strongest type of encryption your router supports. Choose a strong, unique preshared key/passphrase. This key will be used by anyone who is connecting to your wireless network. As with any other key or password, choose one that is at least 8 characters long and is a combination of numbers, upper and lower case letters and symbols. Change the key a few times a year.

7. Disable Wireless Protected Setup

If your router offers Wireless Protect Setup (WPS) it is best to disable that feature. Hackers have found a way to exploit the PIN feature to get your password.

WiFi protected setup allows you to connect devices to the router using a PIN or Push Button Connect. Using the PIN option, you enter the PIN number on your device to connect. Push Button Connect lets you push a button on the router or click a button while logged into the router and for a limited amount of time a device within range can connect. This allows devices to connect without knowing the passphrase.

8. Pay attention to device lists

Most routers have a device list feature. You can view the list to see what devices are currently connected to your router. You should occasionally review the list and make sure only devices you use are connecting.

9. Be careful with guest access

Most routers have a guest access option. This feature allows guests to connect to your router. If you do not use guest access turn it off.

If you do have guests that need wireless access, use this feature. This gives them access to WiFi without allowing them access to your network: things like shared files and folders, shared printers and other sensitive network information.

Some routers also allow you to restrict how much bandwidth a guest is permitted to use. Choose a secure preshared key/passphrase for guest access and change it often.

10. Consider unplugging your router at night or when you are away

A router cannot be compromised if it is disconnected. Consider unplugging your router when you leave the house for the day, leave for vacation or when you are done using it for the day. This will prevent any malicious activity. It could also prevent a power surge and save money on your electric bill.

11. Keep your router software updated

The software that is installed on your router is called firmware. Manufacturers will release firmware updates to improve performance and to address bugs and security issues. Check for updates a few times a year.

You can check for firmware updates by logging into the router. Most have a tab that allows you to check for updates from that page. You can also go directly to the manufacturers website and download the updates.

Final thought

If all this seems overwhelming, don’t let it intimidate you. It’s really very simple.

You can change the settings on your router using the software provided with the router or by using a web browser on your computer.

Taking the time to properly set up, configure and maintain your home network is important and the minimal effort is more than worth the peace of mind it provides.

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