Chances are, you have a router at home so you and your family can connect to the internet. You might share your WiFi password with a string of friends and visitors, too. As harmless as these things seem, they can open up the gateway for hackers to tap into your network and access your personal information.
We asked the experts at ESET about how to secure your WiFi router and tighten up your overall cybersecurity at home, and they said there are 5 easy steps.
#1 Change the name of your WiFi network
Every network has a name, called the Service Set Identifier (SSDI). For many people, the instinct is to name their WiFi network after themselves, their street or other personal identifying details. This is a bad idea, as it’s easy for hackers to use that information to find your router’s default username and password. Since most manufacturers use the same admin settings for every router they produce, cybercriminals have plenty of opportunities to tap into their customer’s networks.
The solution? Give your WiFi network an obscure name that’s hard to guess. Challenge yourself to come up with the most random name possible! So, instead of calling it “Jane Doe’s House” or “10 Piper Lane,” try a phrase that doesn’t reveal a thing about you, like “Lion’s Lair.”
Top tip: Hide your WiFi network. When you do that, your router won’t send out your SSID, and hackers will only see “hidden network” in the list of nearby networks. Without knowing the name of the network, they won’t be able to connect to it or steal your data. As a bonus, locking and hiding your network also makes it easier to block unwanted users from accessing your WiFi. There’s no need to offer free internet to other people.
#2 Create a complicated password
Speaking of admin settings, change the password as soon as you get your router. Many manufacturers include their passwords in their user manual, so if you keep the password that came with the router, you’re essentially leaving the door open for hackers to switch your settings and even lock you out of your own router.
Like the network name, make your password as strong and airtight as possible. Avoid identifying details, common words and phrases, and strings of similar numbers, like 55555. Go for a mix of numbers, capital letters and special characters if you can. The harder your password is for you to remember, the better — because that means hackers will have a tricky time trying to crack it, too! If you’re stuck, you can use a password generator to create a complicated password for you.
It’s a good idea to change your password often, too — we suggest every 2 to 3 months. And don’t feel like you have to give your password out to anyone who asks, either. If you do share your WiFi password with a stranger (like a tradesperson) or someone you don’t know, be sure to change it straight away.
#3 Turn on your router’s firewall
Your router probably has a built-in firewall, but it’s most likely switched off. To turn it on, check your router’s console settings or search for the instructions in the site FAQs or knowledgebase.
In a nutshell, router firewalls filter the traffic entering and exiting your network, and can shut down hackers’ attempts to gain unauthorised access.
If your router doesn’t have a hardware firewall, it’s worth investing in a separate firewall software to monitor the traffic coming in and out of your network. Along with our other tips, this will add an extra layer of WiFi protection, especially if you’re working remotely or handling sensitive information online.
#4 Boost your network encryption
By encrypting your network, you’ll be adding another obstacle for cybercriminals, which is the goal! To do this, go to your router’s console or network settings and choose WiFi-Protected Access 2 (aka WPA2) for your network. Then, select AES for your algorithm. Together, these settings secure transmissions to only your router and device can read them. In other words, they strengthen your router security and make sure only people who are meant to see your content see it.
Top tip: Set up a guest network. If you’re expecting people coming in and out of your house and using the internet (like during a renovation), consider setting up a guest network. This will allow them to hop online, but won’t give them access to your main network.
#5 Keep your router and software up to date
How do I know if my WiFi is secure? Wireless network security is improving all the time, and manufacturers regularly release firmware updates to fix any flaws with your router. In most cases, your router will update automatically without you having to do anything, but it’s worth checking your console once a month, and whenever you hear about viruses in the news. If there is an update available, install it right away to protect yourself from potential cyberattacks.
At the same time, make sure you have a good home internet security software, like ESET Internet Security. It offers a multi-layered defence against a range of cyber threats, and a part of that is scanning your router for vulnerabilities and assessing any devices trying to use your WiFi network. It’s important to keep your software current, so install any software updates ASAP. Hackers are clever, and we’re always releasing patches to respond to new cyber threats.
Maximise your at-home network security Installing antivirus software is one of the easiest ways to secure your WiFi router from cybercriminals. Head to ESET’s site to check out their best home antivirus software and stop hackers in their track