How to Maximize the Security of Your Home Wifi Network

How to Maximize the Security of Your Home Wifi Network

Our smart devices make life just a little bit easier in a hundred different ways, while our home security systems ensure that we sleep well at night. Considering both use our home Wifi network, securing it becomes absolutely critical.

The good news is, a lot of it is in our hands. Seriously, we can do a number of things to secure our home Wifi network, and that too, without needing a degree in networking. Here’s a handy list of to-dos!

Take your Password to the Gym!

Good Wifi security begins with a strong password. So, remember these tips.

  • It’s important to change the default username and password for all our Wifi-enabled devices.
    • Most hackers know the default ones used in a particular product line.
  • Thumb rule is to choose a strong, unique password. Most hackers use tools that can generate hundreds of possible username and password combinations in a jiffy!
    • Using an eclectic mix of numbers, letters and special characters is recommended.
  • It’s best to change the password every other month.
    • Doing so on different days every other month adds another layer of security because the less predictable one is, the better!
You don’t want this…

If someone changes the password, they can take over as the admin and block you.

Rename the SSID

Shakespeare might have wondered ‘What’s in a name’, but we’re talking home security here and it matters a whole lot. SSID, short for service set identifier, refers to the name of a wireless network.

To choose a unique name or SSID for our network, here’s what we need to avoid:

✖ Use any personal identifiers like name, birthday, birth month.
✖ Use any name that can provoke the hackers, such as Guess-My-Password.
✖ Change the password after long intervals.

Also, a couple of pointers for choosing a unique SSID name…
→ Should be a mix of letters and numbers, uppercase and lowercase.
→ Best to use the entire 32-character limit.

You don’t want this…
  • Keeping default passwords like wireless, netgear, default might prevent your wifi-enabled devices from
    • connecting to your network automatically.
    • using the maximum available bandwidth of a router.
  • There’s also a chance of the devices connecting to a spam network sharing the same SSID.
  • As encryption algorithm includes SSID, popular SSIDs make it easier to crack passwords.

Choose the Strongest Encryption Available

To control who can access our home Wifi network, it’s important to choose the strongest encryption available. The 3 most common encryption methods are

  • Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP)
  • Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA)
  • Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2)

Out of the 3, WPA2 is the standard choice as it’s the most secure.

An improved version of WPA2 is WPA2 Personal (AES). According to Apple, it’s “currently the strongest form of security offered by Wi-Fi products, and is recommended for all uses.”

We need to change the encryption from the router console. Here too, it’s important to choose a strong, unique password.

You don’t want this…

If you don’t use encryption, anyone can

  • use your connection without you having any clue about it.
  • access any data you share via the network.

Set-up a Guest Network

When friends and family drop in, pretty much everyone wants a slice of the home Wifi. Setting up a guest network is the best way to be hospitable and safe at the same time!

Most wireless routers can run 2 Wifi networks at the same time — the main network to which all the home devices are connected, and a guest network that allows people Internet access but keeps them off the main network.

Here’s a quick guide to setting up a guest Wifi:

  • Go to router settings and opt for < guest network >.
  • Rename the guest network and restrict access with a strong password.
  • Use WPA2 Personal encryption.
You don’t want this…

Viruses and malwares can infiltrate a network via mobile devices. If a guest connects an already infected device to your home network, the malware can

  • spread over your network and
  • infect everything within its range.

Assign a Static IP

Like our home, our home Internet connection or rather, our router too has an address. It’s assigned by the Internet Service Provider (ISP), and is called an external IP address. This address represents us or our home network on the Internet.

The router in turn, assigns a unique address to each device on the home network via a process called Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, or DHCP. These Internal or private IP addresses are non-routable. A device plugged into our home network can’t connect to another device on another router.

Why are we talking IPs? A potential hacker can tweak the DHCP to get a network address for themselves. Once they do that, they can be quite difficult to track.

What you need to do:

  • Write down the IP address that each device in your network is using.
  • Open your router console settings and go to < Network Configuration >.
  • Look for the option < WAN connection type > or < address configuration >.
  • Change the default setting to < DHCP > to < Static IP >.
  • Reassign each device the address you had noted down.
You don’t want this…

If your IP address is hacked, it can be used to…

  • …block your Internet access.
  • …download illegal content like child pornography and pirated software.

Update the Firmware

Updating the firmware is critical to ensure Wifi security. Ideally, we should be checking our router manufacturer’s website for updates every month.

Also, if there’s news about a virus attack, we should immediately check the router manufacturer’s website for firmware updates. Report of any virus attack has a router manufacturer checking their software and equipment for vulnerabilities against the attack. If they spot any, they release a security patch to help users fix them.

You don’t want this…

If you ignore firmware updates, your router’s security features will not be updated so it won’t be fully equipped to deal with an advanced malware attack.

A Few More Tips

  • Use a VPN to encrypt traffic between your computer and the Internet to protect sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands.
  • Turn on the in-build firewall in your home router or install a robust firewall device.
  • Switch off your router when you aren’t using wifi.

Wifi security is critical to keep our smart devices and home security systems running, and to ensure our peace of mind. Following the tips here will help keep network worms and hackers at bay! Remember to stay safe, stay aware, and change your password!

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