Not long ago, U.S. and U.K. cyber security officials warned that Russian hackers could be compromising wireless networks in millions of homes across the U.S. Security firms like ESET have warned for years that Wi-Fi routers are easy to hack. Are your network and devices in danger?
You shouldn’t sit idly by while hackers, Russian or otherwise, infiltrate your home network, take control of your devices and steal your personal information. You need to encrypt your network, change your default settings, turn off remote access and update your router’s firmware. It’s not a bad idea to use a guest network to sequester your smart home devices away from your smartphone, tablets, computers and other devices that house your valuable personal information. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself.
Encrypt Your Home Wireless Network
Is your home wireless network encrypted? This is important for your home network security because it means that guests, neighbors or a random guy parked in a suspicious, windowless van on the street outside your house can’t access your network — and by doing so, hack into your devices and learn more about you than you want anyone else to know.
Make sure your wireless network is password-protected to make it harder for hackers to get in. Not sure if your network is encrypted? Open the wireless network settings on your smartphone, computer or tablet, and look for your network’s SSID, or network name, among the available networks that will be listed there. See if there’s a little padlock icon next to it — if so, you have encryption turned on. Great! Make sure you’re using a secure password that has at least eight characters and a combination of letters, numbers and special characters.
Now, log in to your wireless router’s admin dashboard. You’ll do this opening up a browser window and typing in your router’s IP address. Open the wireless network or security settings page, and make sure the Wireless Encryption Type to WPA2. Once you’ve done this, go into the Local Area Network (LAN) settings part of the dashboard and change your router’s default IP address; change it to anything you want, but don’t change it to your modem’s IP address. Finally, go into the Administration or Tools area to change the default login password for your router; this will be different from the network password.
Stay in the dashboard for now; you’ll need to perform the next couple of steps there, too.
Turn Off Remote Access
Most routers allow remote access over the Internet, so you can change settings, use FTP or do other things to them, even when you’re not at home. However, you probably don’t need this feature, and it can allow hackers to get into your network more easily. While you’re in your router’s admin dashboard, make sure that remote access features are turned off. Turn off the UPnP feature, too, because it can let hacker’s access and change your router settings without your knowledge.
Update Your Router’s Firmware
Updating your router’s firmware will ensure that you’re using the latest security protocols. It also helps ensure that your router has enabled any fixes or patches for bugs and security issues in its operating software. Updating your firmware regularly is one of the best things you can do for your router’s security; along with using the best internet protection available for your devices, it can go a long way toward thwarting hackers. Updating firmware can help enhance your router’s performance, too.
From your admin panel, locate the firmware upgrade section, which will be under Router Setup, About this Router, Maintenance or even, if you’re lucky, Firmware Update. The newer your router, the easier it will be to update its firmware. Leave the router alone until it’s done updating, which should take only a few minutes.
Sequester Your Smart Home Devices
Finally, you may want to sequester your smart home devices — basically, everything that needs an internet connection besides your smartphones, tablets, and computers — onto a guest network. This allows those smart home devices to interact with each other but makes it harder for hackers to access your computers, tablets and smartphones by hacking into one of your Internet of Things (IoT) devices. That’s important because IoT devices are especially vulnerable to hackers; smart cameras, doorbells, robot vacuums, appliances and the like represent a huge weak point in the security of most homes’ wireless networks, so sequestering them on their own network makes a lot of sense.
As we connect more and more of our appliances and gadgets to the internet, we’re becoming more vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. Make sure your home network is secure, and sleep easier at night knowing you’ll enjoy the benefits of a connected life — with fewer of the hassles.