There are a lot of crazies out there. This is especially true when it comes to the digital world. Here are a few tips on how best to secure you home Wi-Fi and keep pesky intruders off your home wireless network. We will explore hot secure your router, make strong passwords, and protect all of the various devices that communicate via your home Wi-Fi network. We’ll even include a few non-tech tips to make upgrading your security easy for anyone.
Secure Home Wi-Fi Step #1: Secure Your Router
Your wireless router is the hub of your Wi-Fi network. No, seriously, it’s like the mother ship from Independence Day…without it, none of your devices will be able to access the internet. If your router is left defenseless, your internet connection and all devices that use it are vulnerable to hackers, viruses, and other malicious cyber threats. However, you can prevent this from happening with the following tips.
Start with a Secure Router
The majority of people use the router provided by their internet service provider (ISP). However, this is not always the best option. Instead, consider purchasing a third party router. This router should include features like guest access and parental controls. We recommend most routers by Linksys, which also include firewalls and are budget friendly. This is essentially the front line and best way to secure your home Wi-Fi.
Rename Your Network
Every router comes with a default network name, or SSID (service set identifier). This makes it easy for hackers to determine what kind of router you have, which in turn makes it easier to hack. That being said, change the name of your router. Also, avoid network names with personal information (eg “Billy’s Wi-Fi). It’s also a wise idea to avoid network names like “HackMe” or “Unhackable”…this is just asking for trouble!
There are a lot of Wi-Fi encryption formats (aka protocols) out there. There are three primary protocols:
- Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP)
- Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA)
- Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2)
There are rumors stirring around that WPA3 is just around the corner. Once your encryption is up and running, it will protect all data that flows in and out of your network. WPA2 is the protocol that you want to use in most every case. This step only takes a few minutes and you can make it happen in 4 simple steps to enable WPA2 on your home wireless router. This is an essential step towards a secure home Wi-Fi network.
Activate the Firewall
Since you’ve already followed our first tip, you have a wireless router with a built in firewall. However, it will only protect you if you’ve activated it. A firewall helps to hide your network from malicious cyber attackers on the prowl for targets. To find your router’s built-in firewall, log into you router’s admin settings and look for a tab or page named “firewall” or “security”. You should the find an enable button. Click that button and hit save/apply. Yup, it’s really that simple!
Keep Your Software Up-to-Date
Sometimes it will feel like software updates are out to get you and the worst time possible. However, their annoying presence is a reminder to keep our devices and information safe. This is also true of routers. Some routers take care of this automatically. However, you should still make it a point to check to make sure your router software is up-to-date on a monthly basis.
Secure Home Wi-Fi Step #2: Use Strong Passwords
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but strong passwords are a hallmark of strong online security. There are two key passwords that you’ll need to create when you set up your router. The first is your administrative password and the second is your password to connect to the network. It’s not easy to come up with a hacker-proof password. It’s even harder to remember it. However, you don’t have to do it on your own. We recommend using a password manager like LastPass. Password managers are a great way to secure your home wi-fi network and your entire online presence. LastPass not only stores your passwords, but it will also help you generate secure passwords.
Secure Home Wi-Fi Step #3: Protect the Devices that Use Your Network
Every device that connects to and uses your Wi-Fi network is a potential gateway to trouble. To keep out as many threats as possible, make sure the devices that use your network aren’t carriers for viruses, malware, or hackers. We recommend the tools below to fortify the wireless devices that connect to your wireless network.
Internet Security Software
Most computers, phones, and tablets come with their own security features. However, it’s a wise idea to double up and and an extra layer of protection via third party software. Internet security software helps to fend off malware, viruses, and other various online threats. There are countless types of internet security software out there from which you can choose. Some are free and others operate on a monthly or annual subscription. Here are a few different options that will help you narrow the field: third party internet security software.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A VPN establishes a private tunnel between the internet and your home wireless network. This This is quite possibly one of the best ways to ensure a secure home Wi-Fi network. It keeps hacker and other troublesome entities from tracking your online activity. It also does a great job of concealing your your IP address (internet protocol address) and network from uninvited guests. A VPN is typically a paid service that creates a virtual service that you’ll need to log into every time you go online.
The most important time to employ a VPN is when you are away from home. Think about…you’re out in the great unknown wild of Wi-Fi networks. You seriously have no idea what, or who, could be lurking in cyber space these days. This is especially true when you log into a public hot spot. However, many experts encourage users to log into a VPN anytime they connect to the internet.
Parental Control Software
This is a very specific type of online security, but a valuable one if you have young children, or teens, at home. This can essentially be the silver bullet of your home network security. Parental control software aids in keeping kids safe and away from inappropriate content. It can even help monitor social media interactions and keep an eye out for cyber bullies. Furthermore, most parental control software comes with antivirus and anti-malware protection. That means you get a whole bunch of digital awesomeness wrapped up in a single package!
One of the stronger and more efficient parental control software options out there is Net Nanny. It is a front runner in the industry and has earned a heaping pile of accolades and positive customer reviews. Net Nanny also protects computers and mobile devices, which isn’t always the case when it comes to parental control software.
Secure Home Wi-Fi Step #4: Non-Tech Solutions to Secure Your Wi-Fi
Believe it, or not, but not every network security solution requires fancy software or passwords that the NSA could use for eyes-only information. There are other things you can do to help secure your wireless network. While these measures don’t require a tech savvy mind or software, they can still make a measurable difference when it comes to keeping the boogie man off your home Wi-Fi network.
- Disable your wireless router when you are away (eg on vacation).
- Place your router in the center of your home so as to decrease the odds of an outsider having a strong enough signal.
- Use less than creative or intriguing network names. Boring names typically attract less attention.
- Use a timer outlet to shut down the router each day at bedtime or before dinner…okay this may require a slightly tech friendly mind!
Secure Home Wi-Fi Recap
Secure Wi-Fi Network FAQs
What features should I look for in a secure wireless router?
Most consumer routers include a number of security features, but these are the ones that are most important:
- WPA2 Encryption
- Built-In Firewall
- Guest Access
If you have children in your home, you may also want to invest in parental control software and time limit controls. The latter lets you block access during certain times.
How do I peek my neighbors from using my internet connection?
The most effective way to prevent outsiders from accessing your wireless connection is to secure the network. You can accomplish this by making the network private and require a password to access it. You can also disable the broadcast SSID feature on your router or other access points. This prevents your network from showing up in open searches and limits access to those who already know the wireless network name. Another trick is to place your router in a central location within your home. This prevents the signal from reaching your neighbor’s realm.
How can I find out what devices are connected to my Wi-Fi network?
Your router should come with instructions on how to view a list of connected devices. However, if this is not the case, the easiest way to see what devices are connected to your home network is to use your router’s web interface.
To access the web interface, you’ll need your router’s IP address. Enter that address into your web browser and you should be able to view a list of connected devices. You should then look for labels like attached devices, DHCP clients, or connected devices. Click the button, and you’ll see a list of connected devices.
Once the list populates, you will either recognize or not recognize the names of the listed devices. Some names will be easy to recognize, such as the name of a laptop or tablet. However, other names will be gibberish, such as an IP or MAC address.
Is it safe to pay bills or shop online over my home Wi-Fi network?
The short answer is yes. Shopping online is a convenience (and hobby) that has become a hallmark of the internet age. Yet it can be a risky proposition. Most people feel safe using their financial data online when they’re at home. If you regularly pay bills or purchase household items online, it starts to feel like you’re just using the checkbooks and filing cabinets of old.
But it’s important not to get too comfortable. First, make sure you only use sites that start with HTTPS (the “S” is for secure) for shopping and paying bills. Next, verify that you’ve secured your router, and if you want extra protection, use a VPN for all financial transactions. And never store your financial information in your internet browser—no matter how convenient it seems.