8 January 2018
When we think about cyber security we tend to think about passwords, unsafe websites and viruses attached to emails. One thing that is often overlooked is the security of our own wireless networks themselves.
Although it doesn’t hit the headlines as much, it is nonetheless vital to secure our routers as part of staying safe online.
We might think it will result in nothing more than someone helping themselves to some of our bandwidth for free. However, the potential threats can be far more severe.
In fact, if an unscrupulous hacker is able to connect to your network they might intercept all of your traffic. They could steal your passwords, redirect you to fraudulent sites and even change your data. Even if they’re only using your network to get online they might be using it to do illegal things – all in your name.
With this in mind here are some tips to help your WiFi security.
Routers often come with a default username and password. If these remain unchanged, a hacker could access your router’s admin section. From here, a hacker could essentially control your network. They could change passwords or even block your devices.
If you haven’t done so already, go into your router’s settings and change the password to something only you know. You can get into your router’s settings by typing its IP address into a web browser. The address will usually be something like http://192.168.1.254 for example. Instructions usually come with the router documentation.
The service set identifier (SSID) is the name you see when you connect to your network. It is usually based on the type of router you are using. An unchanged SSID can give away the type of router you’re using and knowing this can help a hacker get onto your network.
Change the SSID to a name that you know and that masks the type of router you’re using. It’s also a good idea to refrain from using your name. Again, you can change the SSID in your router’s admin section.
Check in your router’s settings what type of encryption your router is using. Older encryption standards like WEP and WPA are vulnerable to attack and so, if you have the option, make sure to choose WPA2 encryption. It might be set to that already, but it is certainly worth checking.
Next, change the password (network key) to something strong containing a combination of letters, numbers and symbols.
Updating your router’s firmware to the latest version can help to patch up any security vulnerabilities that have been identified. Notifications of firmware update availability, along with detailed installation instructions can usually be found on the router manufacturer’s website.
MAC address (the permanent identifier assigned to any piece of hardware) filtering can be used to only allow certain devices to connect to your network. Again, detailed instructions can usually be found on the router manufacturer’s website and online.
Lastly, if you only connect to your network via an Ethernet connection, you might want to disable WiFi on your router altogether. Then, only devices physically connected to the router can connect to your network.
In summary, if a hacker really wants to access your network then they will probably find a way. That said, the tips above will encourage them to move onto softer targets.