The other day my son-in-law Neil asked me for our wi-fi password and when I gave it to him he chuckled and asked me how I’d come up with such an “interesting” password. I was embarrassed to admit that I’d never changed the default password our router had come with! Oops. This got me thinking about our wireless network security overall and I decided to do a little research. What I found was that I was basically doing everything wrong! But luckily I ALSO found that it’s very easy to make it all RIGHT!
These 6 simple steps will prevent others from stealing your internet and also prevent hackers from accessing your personal files through your own wireless network..
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What is Wi-Fi you ask?
To know if your home wireless network is secure, you should first understand how it works. Your network is typically made up of these elements:
Your modem and router
The modem translates the data signal coming in from your Internet provider. The Wi-Fi router then broadcasts, or routes, that signal wirelessly throughout your home to your wi-fi enabled devices (computers, tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles and more.) Sometimes modems and routers come combined in a single box.
How to keep your internet connection safe and secure:
Create A Unique PASSWORD On Your Router
The first, and most important thing you should do to secure your network is to change the default password of the router to something more secure. Every router ships with a default login/password combination. The exact combination varies from model to model but it’s easy enough to look up and these are widely known to hackers. Leaving it unchanged is just asking for trouble.
When it comes to your Wi-Fi network password, the more complex, the better. Avoid easy-to-guess passwords, such as your address or telephone number. Instead pick something long, such as a sentence with personal meaning, spaces and all. For example…”My favorite beverage is Diet Coke.” (That’s NOT my password in case you’re wondering! lol) If your device does not allow such length or spaces, stick with a mix of numbers and uppercase and lowercase letters plus symbols. The longer, the better.
Your router or router-modem manufacturer’s website should provide instructions on how to change your network password.
Enable Network Encryption
Any Wi-Fi router bought in the last six years includes security technology called Wi-Fi Protected Access version two, or WPA2, which keeps information private and secure by encrypting it. But you have to turn it on to benefit from it.
Check your device manual for directions on how to activate this security technology. Newer devices typically make setup very simple. Make sure you’re using WPA2, and not WPA — and certainly not the ancient WEP, which was broken by hackers long ago.
Change Your Network’s SSID Name
When setting up your home network you’ll be asked to create a publicly visible network name (SSID – Service Set identifier.)
Since your network name is publicly visible, consider one that does not provide information about you, like ‘The Jones Family Network.” You don’t want to give people any type of information that could potentially help them guess your passwords or usernames.
In addition, you don’t want to leave the factory-set generic SSID. When you are logging onto your wireless network, look at other wireless networks in range and I can almost guarantee you’ll see at least one “NETGEAR095.” This preconfigured SSID easily gives away the make of the router and someone with “bad intentions” would simply have to do a quick web search to discover the default password to the admin account. Give your network a name that does not reveal the make or model of your router.
Search the Internet for “How to change your wireless network name” to learn how to log into your router and change it.
Keep Software & Firmware Up To Date
Even with a secure wireless connection, viruses and spyware can worm their way onto your devices. Always stay on top of all of your devices’ antivirus protection and software and firmware updates, which improve security and functionality.
Turn Off Guest Networking
Guest networking allows others to access your routers, and by default it’s usually turned OFF. That said, if you inherited your router from someone else, it pays to make SURE it’s turned off (or at least secured) when you set the router up for your use. Doing so, requires usually nothing more than ticking off a checkbox in the router’s interface.
If you WANT to allow guests access to your network – like your visiting mother-in-law – guest networking offers your guests access to the internet without also giving them access to other devices on your home network.
Shut Down The Network When Not In Use
If your network does not need to be running twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, you can reduce the availability of it to hackers by turning it off when it isn’t in use. While many of us run networks that never sleep, and cannot really put this suggestion into practice, it is worth mentioning because nobody can access what isn’t there.
Once you’ve checked off the things on this short list, you will have done 90% more than nearly every Wi-Fi network owner out there and made yourself a much less likely target of any would-be troublemakers. And you’ll probably sleep better too. :-)