Have you been using the same router or wireless gateway for several years? Giving your home wifi password out to guests and relatives? Not using a firewall? These and other common practices could make your network low-hanging fruit for cybercriminals.
Securing your home network takes a little tech know-how and might take a few hours of your time to install security solutions, create new home wireless networks, change login credentials, and tweak settings. It’s well worth the effort to know that your network, and the valuable information on it, are safe.
Ditch the Rented Gateway
Are you using a router supplied by your (internet service provider) ISP? You shouldn’t be. These units have hard-coded admin credentials that users can’t change. ISPs use these for remote tech support, but they’re a security risk because hackers can obtain lists of these credentials on the web — just like they can get lists of default login credentials for commercially available routers and wireless gateways. But unlike with a router or gateway you buy yourself, you can’t change these default login credentials, leaving you vulnerable.
That’s not the only problem with ISP-provided gateways and routers. Firmware updating lags for ISP-provided gateways. Whether or not you buy your own router or use your ISP’s, you’re going to have to replace it (either by buying a new one or by asking your ISP to swap yours out) every two to three years anyway. You can buy one for about $120, but your ISP probably charges you about $10 a month to rent one. You can see that it’s cheaper to buy one, even if you throw in a network security device to secure your network.
Access Your Router’s Admin Dashboard
Once you have your own, new router installed, you need to figure out how to access its admin dashboard so you can change the default admin credentials and tweak your router’s settings for added security. You can access your router’s settings by navigating to its IP address, which you can find via the Command prompt on your computer.
Open the Command prompt by searching for it in your system, then enter the command ipconfig into the Command Prompt. Look for something labeled Default Gateway under WiFi or Ethernet, and there should be your IP address. Enter it in your browser’s address bar. You should be promoted to enter a username and password. If you don’t know what your default username and password are, try the common defaults, admin and password. Otherwise, you can look up your gateway brand’s default passwords online.
Once you’re in, change your login credentials, and adjust your router’s security settings as necessary. Make sure you have WPA2 protection enabled, or, even better, WPA3, if that’s an option.
Disable Remote Access to Your Router
Other settings, like Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), can make you vulnerable to malware that exploits this feature to get higher-level access to your router’s security settings.
However, turning it off can make it a little harder to connect devices to your network, so weigh whether the risk is worth the inconvenience for you. It’s also a good idea to disable WiFi Protected Setup if you have it on your router.
Use a Guest Network
Many of the guests that come to your house probably want the WiFi credentials, and it’s entirely reasonable to give them out to friends and relatives who spend time in your home. But each device that connects to your network creates another access point through which hackers can get in — and you don’t really know how careful or savvy all of your guests are, or what level of security they have on their networks at home. You don’t need to choose between a possible cyber attack and upsetting your friends. Just set up a guest network for guests to use.
If you’ve never changed your gateway’s admin credentials or, for that matter, bought a new router, it’s time to consider your cyber safety. Take steps to protect your network, so you won’t fall victim to desperate or greedy cybercriminals.