You use the Internet for so much in your daily life from online shopping to even controlling your smart home appliances. But did you know that, like millions of others, your own home wireless network presents a big security risk thanks to hackers? Yikes!
If you’re like many busy people, you probably just set your wireless network up and began using it – not worrying too much about changing any settings or getting into the boring technical details.
If you are concerned about protecting your network, check out these nine tips to learn how.
1. Use a Secure Network Password
Want a quick way to keep strangers from connecting to your wireless network? One of the easiest steps is to use a strong network password.
We know it sure can be tempting to choose an easy, memorable password like your dog’s name or even your own birthdate. But a strong password will be at least eight characters long and have a mix of numbers, symbols, and upper and lowercase letters.
When creating your password, think of something with the complexity of “Aj&k82H@” rather than the simple “password” for better wireless network security.
2. Disable the Remote Management Service
It may be surprising to learn, but your router actually comes enabled with a lot of services you may not even need, one of them being remote management.
This feature lets anybody who can guess your router password change your settings and put you at risk. Pretty scary, isn’t it?
The good news is you can log into your router’s administration portal and locate the remote management option. It’s often in a “tools” or “services” section, but you can check your router manufacturer’s website for specific directions.
3. Control Who Can Access Your Wireless Network
By default, anybody who sees your wireless network and knows the password can just go ahead and join and use your Internet connection. This means your neighbors, or even a stranger parked outside your home, might log on, shop online, or do something malicious without your knowledge.
Thankfully, you can access your router’s administrator settings and take advantage of a tool called MAC address filtering. You can think of a MAC address as a 12-character physical address (like AB:18:CD:39:EF:52) assigned to devices like phones, computers, and any other Internet-enabled device.
You can find the device’s MAC address in its network settings and then add each allowed device to your router’s MAC filtering list to prevent unauthorized devices from connecting.
4. Take Advantage of Network Encryption
Another step to having a secure Internet connection is to take advantage of strong encryption for your router. Encryption makes the information that travels over wireless networks harder to access since it scrambles it.
While routers used to use the weaker WEP encryption (and some still do), it’s now recommended to use WPA-2 encryption since it’s the strongest.
You can go check your router’s security settings through its administration portal and switch from WEP and WPA-2 to harden your network. You can check this guide to learn more about best wireless router.
5. Use a Less Identifiable Router Name
Along with strengthening passwords and using encryption, you need to make your wireless network harder to find and identify in the first place.
Your router’s default name may have been the manufacturer name followed by some numbers, like “Netgear2929” or similar. Worse, you may have even set it to have some identifying info like your name – not a good idea!
To keep hackers from finding your router’s settings or locating you while snooping the neighborhood, try setting a more cryptic router name without your personal info or router manufacturer.
6. Update Your Router’s Administrator Password
Along with changing the router’s name, you’ll want to change the administrator password from the manufacturer’s default.
When doing so, you’ll again want a longer password with a mix of letters, special characters, and numbers like you did with the wireless network password you use to connect to the Internet.
7. Keep Your Router’s Firmware Updated
Even if you follow the previous steps, your router can still be open to dangers if you don’t keep its firmware updated.
Thankfully, manufacturers are always on the watch for bugs and vulnerabilities that can compromise your wireless network security. Simply head to your router’s administration portal and look for the option to update the router firmware.
After it’s done and your router reboots, you will have better peace of mind that those security holes are patched.
8. Limit Your Router’s Wireless Range
Another know you can make it harder for strangers to find your router is to limit its range.
Sure, it may be tempting to have a wide area where you can use the Internet. But is it worth the risk of having hackers or your neighbors use your connection? Likely not!
So, how do you limit the range of your wireless network? It can be as simple as locating your router to the center of your building and changing the antenna positions so that they do not point to the outside of your building.
If you want to get more technical, your router’s manual likely has specific details on adjusting the radio power setting to make it weaker, thus reducing the area your network will cover.
9. Don’t Forget Basic Computer Security
So, you’ve done all these steps to improve your wireless network security, which is great! But there’s still something missing if you want to be safe online.
Having an active and frequently updated anti-virus program such as Windows Defender or Avast is crucial for improving network security and compliance. This will keep your computer safe in case something malicious gets downloaded onto your computer from the network.
You’ll also want to install a firewall program that blocks unauthorized connections and helps prevent hackers from messing with your computer. The great news is that both Windows and Mac OS have built-in firewalls you can turn on and control through your computer’s security settings.
Lastly, don’t forget your operating system’s updates. These are often installed by default, but if you’ve disabled them due to inconvenience or another reason, it’s a good idea to install any available updates that will patch security holes in your operating system and make using the Internet more secure too.
Now Put These Wireless Network Security Tips Into Practice!
So, you’ve got a toolkit now to improve your wireless network security, so go run with it!
It might seem like a lot of work, but the time you spend changing your router settings and securing your computer will be well worth it when you will have to worry less about bad guys getting access to your wireless network.
You can also imagine how much more time you’d have to waste recovering from a wireless network hack! It’s much easier to secure your network, right?
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