Wireless networks make it incredibly easy to connect to the internet from your mobile devices without having to deal with pesky wires. Despite its convenience, there are some drawbacks of wireless networks, including the ability of others to easily access your Wi-Fi. (Which is something they could not do if you used an Ethernet connection.)
While you might not mind if a friend occasionally uses your Wi-Fi when they visit your home, it is another matter if a stranger does it. If you pay per byte used, you will notice an increase in your internet bill if others piggyback on your wireless. It will also decrease your speed, since you have to share the internet connection. Most importantly, if others use your wireless without your permission or knowledge, this poses a security hazard since hackers can access your computer and personal files.
Avoid these problems by securing your home wireless internet network, which can be done in a few simple steps.
7 Tips on How to Secure Your Home Wireless Network
Change Your Password
The very first step of securing your home wireless network should be changing the name of the password for your router. Start by accessing the settings for your wireless router, which you can find instructions for in the printed manual or online. This process typically involves entering a specific website or numeric code in your browser. Once in the settings, the option to change your password should be obvious.
Remember that even if your default password and router name seem random, there are actually public databases with default passwords and usernames that hackers can use to get into your account if you do not change that information. As always, use a strong password to prevent any hacking attempts. (Check out our blog post 8 Tips for Creating the Perfect Password for help.)
Adjust the SSID Name
While in the settings, adjust the default name of your SSID, which is the network you click on to access the internet. It typically includes the brand name followed by letters and/or numbers. This will not necessarily add security, but it can ensure you and others always connect to the right network. It also lets would-be hackers know that you are familiar with the settings, indicating you likely changed your password and will not be an easy target.
Make a Guest Network
If you regularly have people over at your home, consider adding a guest network. This way you can provide them with internet access, but they will not be able to hack into your devices via the shared network. Just remember to use some of the same security measures for the guest network as your normal one. Otherwise, strangers can still use your bandwidth and increase your bill, even if they cannot access your information.
Limit Your Wireless Range
Depending on the size of your property, you might want to limit your wireless signal range. If it does not reach as far, hackers are less likely to be able to get a strong enough signal to connect. You can decrease the signal by putting your router in foil, in a shoe box, or under the bed. Or opt for a technological method and change your router mode to one ending in “g” instead of “b” or “n.” There is even a special paint that can block Wi-Fi signals from leaving a space or getting in. Applying this to the exterior of your home would prevent neighbors from accessing your network, but you wouldn’t be able to use it on your front lawn or backyard anymore.
Encrypt the Network
Other devices in your area can access your internet connection if you do not encrypt the wireless signals. Options include WEP, WPA, and WPA2. WEP is the least secure and weak enough that it is essentially as bad as not bothering to use encryption; hackers can crack it in minutes. Enabling encryption should be simple via the wireless security settings you already have open. Opt for WPA2 if you have a device made after 2006. Older devices will only function with WEP, but since that is essentially useless, these devices must be upgraded in order to secure your home wireless network.
Filter Out MAC Addresses
Each wireless device has its own MAC address, so it’s a good idea to use mac address filtering. Consider inputting the MAC address for each of your devices into your router’s settings and only giving those devices access. You would first have to add the MAC address before they can gain access to your router and network. While hackers can spoof MAC addresses, they need to know the address for at least one computer connected to the network.
One of the simplest ways to ensure your home wireless network remains secure is ensuring the router’s firmware is always up to date.
Although traditionally meant for businesses, homeowners might also want to consider cyber insurance if they are concerned about others accessing their wireless networks. The insurance could minimize the damage caused by hackers, both financially and in terms of information shared.
You should also disable the SSID broadcast feature if it is activated. Routers usually broadcast their SSID (name) at regular intervals, a feature that businesses and public areas welcome but is unnecessary in private homes. Disabling it will minimize hackers’ awareness of your local network.
You will also want to disable the function that automatically connects to open Wi-Fi networks. While this will not directly give access to your own secured network, it does pose a security risk for your computer or another device. If that device is hacked, then a hacker could use the information to access your network.
Home wireless internet adds a great deal of convenience to your life, but there are also security concerns if you are not careful. Start by changing your default password to a secure one, then follow the other advice listed above. Then, your network should remain secure, giving you peace of mind.
Now that you know how to secure your home wireless network, check out our blog How to Increase Mindfulness and Decrease Stress Online.