Are hackers targeting your home wireless network, in a bid to get their hands on your valuable personal information? They might be. Russian hackers are doing more than tampering with American elections; they’ve also been targeting home wireless routers. But you don’t have to be a victim.
Buy Your Own Wireless Gateway, And Tweak Its Security Settings
One of the most important things you can do to protect your home wireless network is buy your own wireless gateway. Not only will it save you money (since you won’t have to pay monthly rent to your ISP to use theirs), but it’ll be more secure, too. Why?
ISPs typically install these devices with their default passwords, which is a problem because these default passwords are pretty for members of the general public to find. These devices may have built-in security backdoors that may be convenient for the ISP if it wants to do maintenance, but inconvenient for your household from a security standpoint. You have no control over firmware updates to the device, and you’ll be more likely to keep using the same wireless gateway for years after you should have replaced it for security purposes. Furthermore, having the same wireless gateway as every other Comcast customer isn’t going to help if hackers figure out how to access it. These are just a few reasons why an ISP-provided wireless gateway isn’t the best option for your network’s security.
Buy your own wireless gateway, and then tweak the security settings to make it harder to hack. Change your Service Set Identifier (SSID) to something that doesn’t give away personal information or indicate what kind of gateway you have. Change your gateway’s default admin user name and password; if a hacker knows what kind of router you have, he or she can simply use the internet to find its default login credentials, and just like that, he or she is into your network.
Once you have access to your gateway’s admin dashboard, make sure to turn on WPA2 encryption, which remains the most secure wireless security protocol available. Disable Wifi Protected Setup (WPS) and Universal Plug and Play (UPNP), as these features make it too easy for hackers to connect new devices to your network. Disable remote access, so that hackers can’t get into your gateway’s admin panel remotely. Consider setting up a network firewall, which will help block questionable incoming traffic. And remember to update your gateway’s software and firmware regularly; these updates protect against new vulnerabilities that emerge as hackers continue to work on breaching a particular gateway’s defenses.
Protect Your Computer and Devices
Once you’ve locked down your wireless gateway, it’s time to protect the computers and devices that use your home wireless network. You want internet security software that provides maximum protection for all of your devices, including computers, smart phones, and tablets. A good security software package will provide protection against viruses and malware, as well as parental control features, privacy shields for online banking and shopping, and protection against online scams.
While you definitely need strong antivirus and anti-malware protection, you also need to take steps to protect your home network from guests and from the inherent vulnerabilities of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. All those connected robots, cameras, talking speakers, and smart lights offer backdoors that could let hackers access your network. The safest thing to do is to create two home networks, one to segregate your IoT devices, and one for all of your smart phones, computers, tablets, and laptops that contain your personal data and financial information. You may also want to set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN), particularly on mobile devices that you may want to use on networks outside the home.
If guests come over and need internet access, let them connect to that network instead of to the one that connects all of your computers and so forth to the internet. It’s not that you can’t trust your guests, necessarily, it’s that you don’t know where their devices have been. Hackers may have already compromised their smart phones and tablets, or may do so in the future, and could use their devices, connected to your network, to access your personal information. If you have kids, their friends may not see a problem with handing out your wireless network login information to others.
Your personal information is valuable, and just like you take steps to secure your expensive jewelry and electronics, you need to protect your personal data. Take these steps to lock down your home network, so you can live your life free of the hassle of a stolen identity, compromised bank accounts, or worse.