Small vulnerabilities in your home Wi-Fi network could cause problems. Learn how to secure your Wi-Fi connection in 7 simple steps.
How much do you rely on your home Wi-Fi? If you’re like most people, you use it for online banking, for paying your credit card, for reserving hotel rooms, for chatting with friends and for watching movies.
That’s a lot of activity. And in many cases, everything from laptops and phones to security systems, thermostats, and air conditioners are all connected to home Wi-Fi.
This is a benefit. But when not safeguarded, your home Wi-Fi network can be a playground for scammers, hackers and other cybercriminals. A small vulnerability in your home Wi-Fi network can give a criminal access to almost all the devices that connect to that network. Hackers and scammers might be able to access your online bank accounts or credit card portals. They might be able to spy on those emails you send to your doctor. They might even flood your devices with malware and spyware.
Fortunately, you can secure your home Wi-Fi network with some simple steps, and doing so can keep the cybercriminals at bay.
Here are some key tips to help secure your home Wi-Fi network against unauthorized access.
1. Change the default name of your home Wi-Fi
First, change the SSID (service set identifier), or name, of your home Wi-Fi network. Many manufactures give all their wireless routers a default SSID. In most cases it is the company’s name. When a computer searches for and displays the wireless networks nearby, it lists each network that publicly broadcasts its SSID. This gives a hacker a better chance of breaking into your network. It is better to change the network’s SSID to something that does not disclose any personal information, thereby throwing hackers off their mission.
2. Make your wireless network password unique and strong
Most wireless routers come pre-set with a default password. This default password is easy to guess by hackers, especially if they know the router manufacturer. When selecting a good password for your wireless network, make sure it contains at least 20 characters, including numbers, letters, and symbols. The more complicated your password, the more difficult it is for hackers to break into your network.
3. Enable network encryption
Almost all wireless routers come with an encryption feature. For most router, though, it is turned off by default. Turning on your wireless router’s encryption setting can help secure your network. Make sure you turn it on immediately after your broadband provider installs the router. Of the many types of encryption available, the most recent and effective is “WPA2.”
4. Turn off network name broadcasting
When using a wireless router at home, it is highly recommended that you disable network name broadcasting to the general public. When nearby users try to find a Wi-Fi network, their device will show a list of nearby networks from which they can choose. If you disable name broadcasting, though, your network won't show up, keeping your Wi-Fi connection invisible to those who don't know to look for it.
This feature is useful for businesses, libraries, hotels, and restaurants that want to offer wireless internet access to their customers, but it is unnecessary for a private wireless network, including your home Wi-Fi network.
5. Keep your router’s software up to date
Sometimes a router’s firmware, like any other software, contains flaws that can become major vulnerabilities unless they are quickly fixed by their manufacturers’ firmware releases. Always install the latest software available for your router and download the latest security patches immediately. This will increase the odds that hackers won’t be able to access your Wi-Fi network.
6. Make sure you have a good firewall
A “smart firewall” is designed to protect computers from malware, viruses, and other harmful intrusions. Wireless routers generally contain built-in firewalls but are sometimes shipped with these firewalls turned off. Check that your wireless router’s firewall is turned on. In case your router doesn’t have such a firewall, make sure you install a good firewall solution on your system to guard against malicious access attempts on your wireless network.
7. Use VPNs to access your network
A virtual private network, or VPN, is a group of computers or networks that work together over the Internet. Individuals can use VPNs, like Norton Secure VPN, as a method to secure and encrypt their communications. When you connect to a VPN, a VPN client is launched on your computer. When you log in with your credentials your computer exchanges keys with another server. Once both computers have verified each other as authentic, all your Internet communication is encrypted and hidden from outside prying.
Most of all, check what devices connect to your home network and make sure they have reliable security software like Norton Security installed against viruses and spyware.
Dan Rafter is a freelance writer who covers tech, finance, and real estate. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Fox Business.
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