Practicing safe home wireless network security is important for protecting you and your information as well as your wireless access point from those who would take advantage of it. Your most basic home wireless network involves an internet access point, probably some kind of cable, provided by your Internet Service Provider that is then connected to a wireless router so that devices can connect to it wirelessly. Many have this basic setup and never feel the need to tamper with it once it is working relying on the network security software for protection.
Unfortunately, if your Internet access point is not sufficiently protected then you and your information are vulnerable to cybercriminal attacks. In a time when your data is everywhere and cyberattacks like ransomware and other online threats are readily available it is especially important that you take your home network security seriously.
Step 1. Change the Name of Your Default Home Network
The first thing you should do upon starting to set up your wireless network is altering the default SSID to something else. Essentially this means to change the name of your wireless network. One thing to keep in mind when selecting a name for your wireless network is that you do not want to include any personal information in your name. Choosing a name such as “Sally’s Network” if your name is Sally will make it easier for a cybercriminal to identify that network as yours.
The primary reason you change the default name of your network is that it makes it harder to find out exactly what kind of router you have from your SSID alone. If a cybercriminal knows what kind of router you have then they will know what kind of exploits that system has and will use them against you.
Another reason to change the name of your Wi-Fi is that you can unlist your network so that it doesn’t come up when people are searching for networks in their area. If you have changed the name of your wireless network then it can serve in a similar capacity to your password because nobody can connect to it unless they know both the name and the password effectively putting two passwords on your network.
Step 2. Make Sure You Set a Strong and Unique Password to Secure Your Wireless Network
There is a distressingly high number of people that don’t know how to set up a secure password and, more disturbingly, don’t care to learn or even bother setting one up in the first place. A surprising amount of people set their passwords as some variation of the word “password” or an easily guessable pattern of numbers such as “123456.” This is not the worst password you could set for something, but it is very close. There are people out there that simply leave their password as the default provided by their Internet Service Provider or don’t bother setting one at all.
If you are one of these people, please, take the time to learn a few basic principles for designing passwords and make sure to use them for your own safety and the safety of friends and loved ones that regularly connect to your wireless networks.
The most basic step in setting up a strong password is to ensure that it includes letters, both uppercase and lowercase, numbers, and symbols because this makes your password stronger against “brute force attacks” which involve trying combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols repeatedly until they guess yours.
The second concept is to make sure that the password is not comprised of any personal information about you because people that know you could possibly guess your password and defeat the purpose of having one.
Third, you should generally attempt to make your passwords as long as they can possibly be. This is inconvenient, but the longer your password is the more likely it is to withstand brute force attacks and the harder it is for someone to guess.
Finally, avoid writing your password down or noting it anywhere. If you must make a note of your password then write it on a piece of paper and keep it nearby at all times.
Step 3. Increase Your Wi-Fi Security by Activating Network Encryption
Make sure to enable network encryption on your wireless network. There are multiple types of encryption languages including WEP, WPA, and WPA2. The current industry standard is WPA2 which is a direct upgrade to WPA which itself was a replacement for WEP.
Step 4. Turn off the Wireless Home Network When You’re Not at Home
When you aren’t at home there isn’t any reason to have your wireless network on, and thus vulnerable. You should make a habit of turning off the network and disconnecting all devices connected via your ethernet cable. This has the added benefit of protecting your devices in the case of an electrical surge while you are away. It is a frustrating feeling to return home after a long day of work only to find out one of your machines is dead due to an electrical surge.
Step 5. Where Is the Router Located in Your Home?
The location of your wireless router is not often considered in regard to network security but it can be important. You should make an effort to place it as close to the middle of your dwelling as possible to limit how far the range extends outside of your home. This has the added benefit of ensuring that all of your wireless devices will have a good connection throughout every room of your home. It is also important to keep your router away from any windows because they provide ready access for your network to extend outside, which makes it easier for a stranger to connect without your permission.
Step 6. Use a Strong Network Administrator Password to Increase Wi-Fi Security
Setting up your wireless router can be overwhelming at first for those that are unfamiliar with the task. There are a lot of menus to navigate and they are all covered in acronyms and terminology that most people aren’t familiar with which can make the process very tedious. Thankfully, changing your administrator password and username is fairly simple and provides a lot of security. The default administrator ID and password for most routers is “admin” and “password” which are just awful in regard to security. If you do not change the username and password for your router you are leaving yourself vulnerable.
Step 7. Change Your Default Ip Address on the Wireless Router
Changing the default IP address of your system can help to protect your wireless network from malicious intent. This setting is accessed through your router and is usually found in the Network > LAN settings. After you change your IP address you will have to use that address to access your router instead of the default one you used to access it before. You can change your IP Address with these options as well.
Step 8. Turn off the DHCP Functionality on the Router
The Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol is a tool to assist network administrators. It is usually enabled automatically and its purpose is to assign IP addresses to devices that connect to its network. Turning it off is a good idea because those IP addresses can be guessed. It is much better to manually configure IP addresses for any of your devices.
Step 9. Disable Remote Access
By default, your router can be accessed by anyone that knows your IP address. It is a good idea to disable remote access to your router which should make it so that any attempts to access the settings on your router will fail unless they are made by one of your trusted devices. This setting is usually found under “Remote Access” or “Remote Administration.”
Step 10. Always Keep Your Router’s Software Up-To-Date
Ensure that you are keeping your router’s software updated. Software often receives updates to close holes in security and eliminate exploits that can be used for malicious intent. If you are ignoring update notifications, stop. Failing to update your router’s software leaves all of those security holes and exploits available for the motivated cybercriminal to use against you.
Step 11. A Firewall Can Help Secure Your Wi-Fi Network
Firewalls come in both Hardware and Software varieties. Having one adds security to your network, and you can never have enough security on your wireless network. If you are using a PC then you are most likely using some version of Windows which comes with Windows Firewall and is better than nothing. Ideally, you would use a hardware firewall to protect your network which most routers come with automatically. Checking your router settings for firewall settings while you are shoring up defenses there would be a good idea.
Step 12. Enhance Protection for the Devices Most Frequently Connected to Your Home Network
All of the previous steps should also be applied to any devices that regularly connect to your network. Additionally, you should make sure that these devices have anti-virus or anti-malware programs installed and updated.