More people are working from home these days, and some are saying they might never go back to the office. Our personal lives are more digitized than ever, too. And that means it’s never been a better time to lock down your home network.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you start thinking of hackers breaking into your network, taking over your devices, and stealing your personal information. But when you get right down to it, home network security is actually pretty straightforward. It’s mostly about buying your own router or gateway, maintaining it well, and protecting your devices from malware with a comprehensive security suite.
1) Buy Your Own Router or Gateway
You shouldn’t be using the wireless gateway or router your internet service provider (ISP) offers to you for a low monthly rental fee. For one thing, it’s cheaper over the long term to buy your own router or gateway.
Buying your own router or gateway is also more secure. ISPs may not push out firmware updates for their routers as often as necessary, which could leave these devices with security flaws that never get patched. Nor will many ISPs let you know when it’s time to turn in your equipment for an updated version. When you own your own router, you’ll be able to install all the manufacturer updates — and there will be more updates from a manufacturer that’s motivated to develop them. You’ll also be free to replace your device at any time.
2) Update Your Firmware
In a perfect world, your device’s firmware would be impervious to viruses, malware, and intrusion right out of the box. But firmware is developed by human beings, so it will have flaws, and hackers are constantly looking for those flaws so they can exploit them. Manufacturers try to keep up and release firmware updates that patch these security flaws. They may even need to release firmware updates that improve performance or correct flaws in your device’s hardware. Install firmware updates as they come available to keep your device secure.
3) Use a Security Suite
Malware and viruses tend to infiltrate systems and networks through user error more so than through attacks targeting specific individuals. Sure, it’s not unheard of for a hacker to take control of a family’s webcam in order to spy on them or break into a Zoom meeting to cause chaos among the attendees, but most cybercriminals cast a wide net in order to try and rope in as many marks as possible. So you need a comprehensive security suite to protect your devices from malware, ransomware, and viruses with email spam filters, two-way firewalls, file scans, and so forth. Today’s antivirus suites include password management vaults, parental controls, network monitoring, and other features that can enhance your security and give you more control over your information, network, and devices.
4) Take It Easy on the IoT Devices
Internet of Things (IoT) devices is notorious for their security flaws. For years now, IT security professionals have been warning about the dangers of IoT devices. Smart devices typically don’t have the computing power to run even the simplest antivirus program, and many are hastily built with programming that’s just as shoddy and questionable as every other component. It’s therefore fairly easy for hackers to use IoT devices to access your network, and the more of them you have, the more potential points of unauthorized access your network has.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have smart devices — but maybe you don’t need all of your small appliances and light bulbs connected to the internet. If you’re not going to use the wireless capabilities on a given device, get one that doesn’t offer connectivity, or turn that feature off.
5) Change Your Default Admin Credentials
When you set up a new wireless router or gateway, you need to make sure you find the default admin login credentials, access your router’s admin dashboard, and change those default credentials to a new, strong, and unique username and password. If you can’t figure out what the default login credentials for your router are, google it — and then you’ll see why it’s so important to change this information right away. You don’t even have to be a very skilled hacker to figure out the default login credentials for most mass-manufactured routers, and with that information, hackers can access your entire network and kick you off of it, connect their own devices to it, or take control of your devices.
Is your home network safe? Not likely. Secure your router and devices now, before it’s too late.