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Your Wi-Fi network is your home’s wireless internet connection. It usually involves a wireless router that sends a signal through the air. You can use that signal to connect to the internet. But unless your network is password protected, any device within range can pull the signal from the air and use your internet connection.
The upside of Wi-Fi? You can connect to the internet wirelessly. The downside? Others nearby who connect to your unprotected network might be able to see what you do online, including your personal information. And if anyone uses your network to commit a crime or send illegal spam, the activity could be traced back to you.
How to Secure Your Wi-Fi Router and Protect Your Home Network
Youve probably got a lot of devices connected to your router, from phones to smart speakers, and you need to keep all of them locked down and protected—as soon as you connect them to Wi-Fi, theyre also connected to your router. If any device doesnt need Wi-Fi access, then disable it. Youll be glad you did.More Great WIRED Stories
To minimize this risk, practice good security principles at home: Keep all your devices up to date with the latest software, be picky about which apps, programs, and browser extensions you install, and protect your devices with long, difficult-to-guess passwords that are all different from each other. Better yet, get a password manager. Make sure your devices are protected by appropriate security software, wherever possible.
Some more modern routers update themselves in the background, but whatever model you have, its always worth making sure the firmware is up to date. This means youve got the latest bug fixes and security patches, and are protected against whatever exploits have just been discovered.
The process varies from router to router, but as with the password settings, the option to update your routers firmware shouldnt be too difficult to find within the router control panel. If you get stuck, check the router documentation or the official support site on the web.
Its a good idea to change the Wi-Fi password on a regular basis. Yes, it means youll need to reconnect all your devices again, but it also kicks off any unwelcome visitors who might be lurking. Your router settings panel should give you a list of connected devices, though it might be tricky to interpret.
Written by a NortonLifeLock employee
July 16, 2018
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It is beginning to feel like the Internet is a basic necessity for existence in the 21st century. With all our devices connected to the Internet, we have an indescribable physical mobility that leads to increased productivity. It is safe to say that the Internet is for everyone and does not limit itself to the tech savvy. Unfortunately, when not safeguarded, the Internet can be a playground for nefarious activities caused by people with malicious intent.
Take a home wireless network as an example. Almost every member of the family accesses it through laptops, PCs, cell phones and tablets. With the Internet of Things, there is a gamut of other elements in the home that access the Wi-Fi. A small vulnerability in the home Wi-Fi network can give a criminal access to almost all the devices that access that Wi-Fi. This could spell trouble for bank accounts, credit card details, child safety, and a whole lot of other concerns.
The following tips can help secure your home Wi-Fi network against unauthorized access.
1. Change the default name of your home Wi-Fi
The first step towards a safer home Wi-Fi is to change the SSID (service set identifier). SSID is the network’s name. Many manufactures give all their wireless routers a default SSID. In most cases it is the company’s name. When a computer with a wireless connection 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 is at least 20 characters long and includes numbers, letters, and various symbols. This setting will make it difficult for hackers to access your network.
3. Enabling network encryption
Almost all wireless routers come with an encryption feature. By default it is turned off. 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. This feature is often useful for businesses, libraries, hotels and restaurants that want to offer wireless Internet access to customers, but it is usually unnecessary for a private wireless network.
5. Keep your router’s software up to date
Sometimes router’s firmware, like any other software, contains flaws that can become major vulnerabilities unless they are quickly fixed by firmware releases from the manufacturer. Always install the latest software available on the system and download the latest security patches to ensure no security hole or breach is left open to online predators.
6. Make sure you have a good firewall
A “firewall” is designed to protect computers from harmful intrusions. Wireless routers generally contain built-in firewalls but are sometimes shipped with the firewall turned off. Be sure to check that the 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 watch for malicious access attempts to 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 secured 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.
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Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. NortonLifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.
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Our increasingly technological world means that our homes are now filled with a wide range of gadgets and devices that require an internet connection. Whether it’s our computer, tablet, phone, fridge, TV or baby monitor, our increasing reliance on the internet to connect all our devices has opened the door to many risks and poses a range of security problems.
Many people are simply unaware of the security risks that these devices can present unless they are properly protected with a secure Wi-Fi network. We would never dream of leaving the front door to our house open but leaving our Wi-Fi networks unsecured opens us up to the same security risks.
Hackers are opportunistic and ready to take advantage of any lapse in security to launch a targeted attack. If hackers can gain access to your home network, they can steal personal and financial information, infect your devices with viruses and malware, commit cyber-crime from your device or launch a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack.
Securing your home network is essential when it comes to keeping out attackers and protecting your data.
How To Protect Your Wi-Fi Home network
To protect your home and keep it safe from hackers, there are several steps you can take:
1. Change default username and password
The first and most important thing you should do to secure your home Wi-Fi network is to change the default username and password to something more secure.
Wi-Fi providers automatically assign a username and password to the network and hackers can easily find these default passwords online. If they can gain entry to the network, they can change the password to whatever they like, lock the owner out and hijack the network.
Changing the username and password makes it more difficult for attackers to identify whose Wi-Fi it is and gain entry to the network. Hackers have sophisticated tools to test thousands of possible password and username combinations, so it’s vital to choose a strong password that combines letters, numbers, and symbols to make it more difficult to crack.
2. Turn on Wireless Network Encryption
Encryption is one of the most effective ways of safeguarding your network data. Encryption works by scrambling your data or the contents of a message so that it cannot be deciphered by hackers.
The most secure type of encryption to use for your home Wi-Fi network is WPA2. If you have older devices that are up to 10 years old, they may not be compatible with WPA2 so it will be vital to upgrade your home devices for enhanced security and performance.
To check if your router uses WPA2 encryption, look at your network settings and check the wireless properties. This will enable you to select the best encryption method when you join a wireless network.
3. Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)
A VPN is a network that allows you to communicate over an unsecured, unencrypted network in a private way. A VPN encrypts your data so that a hacker cannot tell what you are doing online or where you are located.
A VPN will also alter your IP address, making it appear that you are using your computer from another location other than your home address. In addition to a desktop, it can also be used on a laptop, phone or tablet.
4. Hide your network from view
When you are initially setting up your home network you will be asked to create a publicly visible network name, otherwise known as a SSID (Service Set identifier). Most devices are configured with a default network name that has been allocated by the manufacturer. There’s a good chance that if your neighbours have a device from the same manufacturer they will also the same SSID which could be a security nightmare if both networks are unencrypted.
SSID hiding is a feature that will enable you to hide your network name from the list of people in the surrounding area. Changing the default name makes it a lot more difficult for a hacker to know what type of router you have, reducing the chance of attack.
5. Turn off your Wi-Fi Network when not at home
It sounds simple but one of the easiest ways to protect your home network from attack is to turn it off when you’re not at home. Your home Wi-Fi network doesn’t need to be running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Turning off your Wi-Fi when you’re away from home reduces the chances of opportunistic hackers attempting to break into your home network when you’re not in.
6. Keep your router software up to date
Wi-Fi software should be updated to protect the network security of your home. The router’s firmware like any other type of software can contain vulnerabilities that hackers are keen to exploit. Most routers won’t have the option of an auto-update so you’ll need to manually update the software to ensure your home network is protected.
7. Use Firewalls
Most W-Fi routers will contain a built-in network firewall that will protect broadband connections and prevent any network attacks from intruders. They will also have an option to be disabled so it’s important to check that your home router’s firewall is turned on to add another layer of protection to your home security.
8. Place the router in the centre of your home
Homeowners often don’t realise that the location of their router can have an impact on security. If your router is positioned near a door or window it increases the chance of your wi-fi signal being intercepted by someone with malicious intent. To improve the security of your home Wi-Fi, it’s best to place your Wi-Fi router as close to the centre of your home as possible and this will reduce the chance of hackers connecting to your network.
9. Enable MAC Address Filtering
Most broadband routers will have a unique identifier called the physical address or Media Access Control (MAC) address. This address aims to improve security by limiting the number of devices that can hook up to the home network. Homeowners have the option to type in the MAC addresses of all devices in the home and this restricts the network to only allow connections from these approved addresses. This provides another layer of security to help keep hackers at bay.
10. Disable Remote Administration
Another way hackers can gain entry to a home network connection is through the remote administration feature on a router. Remote administration allows anyone close enough to your home to view or change your Wi-Fi settings. If you don’t need to remotely connect to your Wi-Fi router, it’s best to turn this feature off. This can be done by going into the administration section of the Wi-Fi settings and clicking on the disable button.
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