There is a common misconception that we don’t need to worry about securing our home-networks from cyber threats because cybercriminals only care about stealing data from big companies. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. According to The Department of Homeland Security, “if a network connects to the internet, it is inherently more vulnerable and susceptible to outside threats.” Clearly, we need to protect all our networks, be they home or business.
Keeping your home network secure doesn’t have to be difficult, though. In fact, if you follow these six steps, it can be downright easy.
Change Your Admin Credentials
Start by establishing the admin credentials on your home network’s modem. To do this, you will need to log into your modem online. You can find directions on how to this included with your modem. Note that today, most modems are modem-router combos, but if your modem and router are separate, you will want to change your admin credentials for both to be completely secure.
Your admin credentials will be set automatically by your ISP or modem manufacturer, making it easy for cybercriminals to guess them and then gain access to the back end of your home network. By creating a strong username and password for your modem, you can keep access secure. Remember to follow password best practices, and never use personal information in your username (such as your birth year, pet’s names, etc.).
Bonus Tip: Once you are familiar with logging into your modem, log in once a week to monitor devices connected to your home network. This is an easy way to catch unwanted users.
Set a Unique Name for Your Home Network
Home networks also come with a default name. The network name is referred to as an SSID or a service set identifier. The SSID is how different devices identify your home network. The default SSID will usually include the name of the ISP or modem manufacturer. Changing the SSID to something unique and obscure is an easy way to throw off anyone who may be looking for your home network. When you change the SSID, don’t use personal markers, like your apartment number or address.
Bonus Tip: For extra security, you can make your network undiscoverable by hiding it completely.
Employ Strong Passwords
Having strong passwords is the most critical step to securing your home network. Start with your Wi-Fi password. Usually, the default password is printed on the bottom of your modem, which is much too easy to find. Using password best practices, change that default Wi-Fi password to something more unique. Then, store your new password somewhere safe.
Going forward, change that password often. It can be a real pain to update the password on all your devices, but it is crucial, as it will throw off any unwanted users. Make sure to update that password at least every six months. Do the same with all your other passwords. Everything from your laptop to your Facebook should have a strong password backed up by best practices.
Bonus Tip: If you are leaving your home for an extended period, you can turn off your modem to stave off any unwanted visitors while your away.
Install Anti-Virus and Firewalls
All of your devices should be protected by anti-virus, even your tablets and cell phones (iOS devices are a little different, and this Tech Advisor article will explain why). You cannot install anti-virus on modems, but you can access Firewalls on them. Firewalls act as a filter for your network. They monitor incoming and outgoing traffic on your home network while simultaneously allowing or blocking harmful data.
Firewalls are usually included with your modem but are not always activated. After you have logged into your modem, you can locate your Firewall settings and make sure that the wall is active. Similarly, Firewalls are usually built into a computer, or anti-virus software, but it is essential that you confirm that. If for whatever reason, there isn’t a Firewall active on the devices connected to your home network, you will need to add one.
Bonus Tip: Most modems also come with encryption options. You should employ the most current encryption for your home network, which at this time is WPA2.
Stay on Top of Updates
All the software on your home network needs to be updated consistently. This includes everything from apps on your phone to the modem itself. The majority of the time, updates are automatic, but you should never assume that. Check for updates on your modem and all of your devices each month. Updates are how developers push out security patches that can prevent hackers from exploiting weaknesses in software.
Bonus Tip: Don’t overlook security updates for Smart devices! These can be just as important as updates for your browser or modem.
Make Sure You Have The Speed You Need
Lastly, make sure your home network has enough bandwidth to handle all your devices. A slow home network can be caused by overcrowding or slow devices, but it can also be a sign that someone is mooching off of your connection. Use OTELCO’s free bandwidth calculator to make sure you have the speed you need.