How to Secure Your Home Network [UPDATED 2021]

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How to Secure Your Home Network

Things are tough out there right now, and it’s more important than ever to protect your home network and devices from malware and hackers. As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, cyber threats continue to evolve, with many scammers capitalizing on current events to make some easy money. With COVID-19 going around, the economy taking a nosedive and a contentious general election looming, the last thing you need is to have to deal with malware or ransomware on your computer. Here’s how you can lock down your home network to protect it from malware and hackers.

Change Your Router ID and Password

Your wireless router or gateway comes out of the box with a default ID, usually known as a service set identifier (SSID) or extended service set identifier (ESSID), and a default password. The first thing you should do after setting up your network is change these credentials. That’s because these default credentials are easy for hackers to find on the web, and if they do, they could use them to access your network and control or infiltrate your devices.

You should also change the login credentials needed to access your router settings. The settings dashboard allows you to reconfigure your router, and you don’t need some nefarious criminal type gaining access to that. As with any other important online account, choose a strong password you can remember. Many newer devices will alert you if a suggested password isn’t strong enough.

Making a strong password can be a daunting task. I wrote a simple online tool to generate a memorable password using your own words. You can access this open source and free tool here

Some people prefer to use password stores like LastPass and few other good options listed here. These apps are good at securing complex passwords that you may generate using browser features or using tools like this one.

Use the Highest Possible Level of Security

Once you have accessed your router settings, you can make sure that you’re using the strongest possible wireless security protocol. For most newer devices, that will be WPA3, which was rolled out in 2018. If your device doesn’t offer WPA3, and especially if it’s more than a couple of years old, you should consider replacing it. Make sure you keep your firmware updated, too.

Implement Comprehensive Security Software

Even with strong security measures in place protecting your router, malware can still find its way onto your devices. Often, it’s a question of user error — it just takes one moment of confusion, grogginess, or absent-mindedness to accidentally fall victim to a well-executed phishing email. You need network security software for your whole home — and because all members of your household aren’t going to be as web-savvy as you, you need a solution that will protect your network and all of the devices on it. In addition to antivirus and malware protection, look for something with spam filters, privacy protection for your financial information, ransomware removal, and parental controls.

Disable Remote Access

If you don’t need to access your router’s dashboard settings remotely, you should turn off remote access to hopefully keep hackers from getting into your settings dashboard. Even if you do need to access your router settings remotely, you can still use a dedicated app for that purpose, and you don’t even need to turn your remote settings back on.

You should also consider turning off Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) and Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS). You can turn these on again should you need them — like, for example, should you want to connect a new device to your network.

Segregate Internet of Things Devices

Internet of Things (IoT) or smart devices sure can make your life easier, but they also tend to have poor security. While that doesn’t mean you should return your smart fridge, it might be a good idea to make sure your IoT devices can’t give hackers access to your smartphone, laptop, tablets, or other devices that actually contain your sensitive data.

You can easily do this by segregating those devices that need an internet connection to their own network. If you’ve got IoT devices that don’t need to connect to the internet to do their jobs, access their settings and disable Wi-Fi connection.

Set Up a Guest Network

Yours and your family’s devices might be safe, but do you know where your guests’ devices have been, what strange links they’ve been clicking on, or what questionable apps they may have installed? No, you don’t. It’s possible for malware to infect your devices through a guest’s device that has connected to your network. You don’t have to be stingy with the Wi-Fi password to protect yourself.. Set up a guest network instead.

As technology continues to evolve, so does cybercrime. Make sure your network is protected with the latest, up-to-date software, equipment, and best practices, so you can worry about more important things.

Article Updates

  • Updated August 2021. Updated links. Moved HTTP links to HTTPS versions. Fixed other minor issues. Validated article is valid for 2021.

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