A majority of Internet users at least try to stay safe and secure when they’re online, even if they don’t always make the best decisions or set the best passwords. However, few people think about how secure their home wireless network is. Have you ever thought much about how safe your Wifi connection really is?
Chances are that it’s a step up from the free connection you could get at a coffee shop, but there’s probably a lot more you could be doing to keep things safe. We asked the experts and put together this list of eight things you can do right now to keep your network safe from online threats.
1. Turn on Network Encryption
Hopefully, you’re already using at least some form of network encryption. Many people are still using their Wifi networks in unprotected mode. This is unbelievably scary, considering that it’s basically inviting anyone to watch everything you do online. Make sure that network encryption is turned on. In an overwhelming majority of cases, you’re already working from behind a protected network. If you’re not, then enable it right now.
You’ll probably want to make sure that the WPA2, AES, and TKIP security options are enabled on your router. This is the most secure configuration that’s currently available on consumer-grade equipment. If your router has an option with a name like “Enable WPS Encryption”, then make sure that it’s off. This is an old standard that’s unsafe.
2. Locate Your Router in a Strategic Place
Some homeowners don’t have the option of where to put their router since they only have a single cable line in their house. If you can position yours freely, then try to position your device near the center of your home. This can help prevent leaking your Wifi signal out to neighboring homes. Some people, called wardrivers, actively search for Wifi connections from a moving vehicle. They might not be able to see your modem easily if it’s located further away from the street. Putting it in the center of your home can even help keep your digital devices stay connected better.
3. Change the Default Administrator Password
Wireless modems include an embedded broadband router that comes with a miniature onboard web server. This gives you the ability to change internal settings without knowing an ounce of code. However, the default login password for this screen is probably something very simple. If you’ve never changed it, then log into the administrator screen now and set it to something better as soon as possible.
4. Turn Your Built-in Network Firewall On
While it might sound pretty technical, it’s extremely easy to enable this important feature. You might even want to do this while you’re changing the administrator password for your modem. There’s usually a checkbox in the setup screen that lets you toggle the option. Once it’s ticked, you’re done. In some cases, you’ll find that the manufacturer did this for you.
5. Disable SSID Tag Broadcasts
If you don’t mind manually configuring every Wifi-enabled device you use, then you can even switch off automatic SSID tag broadcasts. This renders your connection virtually invisible to those who don’t know the exact name you gave it. Naturally, you’ll want to change your SSID tag to something other than the default if you go this route. Pick something that can’t be easily guessed but that you won’t mind entering.
6. Switch Your Network Off When You’re Not Using It
In most cases, people don’t want to disable their Wifi modem each night while they’re sleeping. However, you should think about unplugging it if you’re going to be away for an extended period of time. Unplugging your router is certainly the ultimate way to prevent outside crackers from breaking in. If you’re going to be traveling, then you’ll definitely want to unplug it before you leave.
7. Disable Network Services You Never Use
Even if you’re not ready to turn off your modem, you can still turn a few other services off to keep it a bit more secure. Most routers provide a dizzying array of connections that few users ever bother with. While you don’t want to start randomly unchecking boxes in the setup list, you can safely turn off a few like UPnP and Telnet unless you have a specific need for them.
8. Create a Custom Pre-Shared Key
Since most Wifi-enabled devices cache the key code and only require you to enter it once, you can create a really long one. You can then use this in place of the one that your modem shipped with. It might take a little work, but it can really stop people from guessing your password.
Don’t worry too much if you’ve never messed with network settings before. Wifi configuration screens are very intuitive to use. You should be able to change settings with nothing more than a mouse in most cases. In fact, you might even be surprised how little time it takes to use some of these tips. In less than 20 minutes, you could have a secure network and more importantly peace of mind.