A lot of people think their home network doesn’t need a lot of security.
After all, who’s going to want to steal your photos, emails, and Word documents? Hackers are only interested in big enterprises with troves of valuable personal data on millions of people. Right?
Well, not quite. Your home network can actually be just as appealing to the bad guys as a multinational corporation’s.
If your network isn’t properly secured, a hacker can easily steal your passwords, assume your identity, empty your bank accounts, and wreak untold havoc on your life.
But securing your home network doesn’t have to be as much of an ordeal.
Here are 10 simple steps you can take right now to beef up your security and protect your data:
1. Change your router’s default passwords and settings.
This step cannot be overstated. Routers ship with default settings (aka public knowledge). Leaving them unchanged makes it easy for a hacker to break in. At a minimum, you should change your router’s admin username and password. You should also update your router’s default IP address and login, as these grant access to the its Web interface and all of its settings.
2. Activate your router’s firewall.
Firewalls are a fundamental part of network security. They block potentially malicious traffic and unauthorized access to your network. But enabling your router’s firewall is easy, and built into the OS if you’re using Windows 8 or 10.
3. Encrypt your network.
Encryption is one of the best lines of defense against hackers. The WPA2 protocol is the current gold standard, but WPA is acceptable in a pinch. Enable AES encryption, as well, and be sure to choose a strong password.
4. Log out of your router’s web interface.
Failure to properly log out can lead to unauthorized access. You should also close your browser after.
5. Turn off remote access features.
These can be highly risky unless you’re well versed in them. If you need to remotely access your network, take added security measures, like using HTTPS and a VPN and choosing a non-conventional port.
6. Restrict which IP addresses can manage your router.
Ideally, only 1 computer should be allowed to access and manage the router. This computer should not have an IP address in the DHCP pool of addresses.
7. Disable Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS).
Many router models and firmware versions have a serious WPS vulnerability. If you want to set up Wi-Fi, connect to your router via a wired connection, access its web-based management interface, and configure Wi-Fi with WPA2 and a custom password.
8. Expose as few router services to the Internet as possible.
Any open ports that you don’t need (Telnet, UPnP, SSH, etc.) should be closed, as they increase your vulnerability.
9. Enable MAC address filtering.
This can prevent unauthorized access even if an attacker obtains your WiFi password. It can be tedious to whitelist every device, but depending on the sensitivity of your network, it may be worth the effort.
10. Turn off guest networks.
These don’t have an encrypted password and present an easy entry point for hackers.
Keeping your home network secure requires vigilance, and there are no guarantees in the ever-changing world of cybercrime. But these steps will quickly make your network much more secure and keep your personal data safer.