Having a wireless network in our home is convenient – we can use our laptops, smartphones, and tablets around the house as well connect our TV's, gaming consoles, appliances, and more. However, if you don't secure your network, anyone within range of it can see and use it.
1. Enable the encryption feature.
Encryption encodes the information you send over the network so it cannot be accessed. Generally, this feature is automatically turned "off" on your router. Choose your router's highest security option – WPA2, if available, or WPA. If the router only supports the less-secure option, WEP, check on the manufacturer's Web site to see if there's a firmware update. If not, you might consider purchasing a new router. WEP is not secure enough to protect your network from common hacking programs. Always use a long and strong password (a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols) for your encryption key/passphrase.
2. Change the default router name.
The default ID, or Service Set Identifier (SSID), is assigned by the manufacturer. Rename the router to something only you know and isn't easily guessed by others.
3. Change the pre-set router passwords.
Your router most likely came with a default "administrator" password to access the device and set up the network as well as a default "user" password. Do NOT keep these passwords – they're weak and hackers know them. Change all pre-set passwords to long and complex ones. Plus, you'll want to make sure it's something that you'll remember. If you forget the "administrator" password, you'll have to reset your router to the default settings and your preferred settings will be lost.
4. Don't allow your network's name to be visible.
You know your network's name. Why do neighbors and strangers need to see it? When you turn "off" the broadcasting feature, your network name will not show up when people are scanning for Wi-Fi. There are some drawbacks – you'll have to manually enter the network name into each device when you first establish the wireless connection and some devices (ex: computers) will not connect unless this feature is enabled.
5. Turn off the "remote management" feature.
By allowing the router to be remotely accessed via Internet, you allow anyone to find and access your home network. Never leave this feature enabled. You may need to temporarily turn this feature on if you're working with the manufacturer's technical support.
6. Use a firewall.
If your router has a pre-installed firewall, turn it on. It adds another layer of defense from unwanted people accessing your computers and devices.
7. Limit which specific devices can access the network.
Every device that communicates with your network is assigned a Media Access Control (MAC) address. Most routers allow you to identify which MAC addresses can access your network. So, if it's not on the list, it will be blocked. Important: This should NOT be your only security solution – some criminals have figured out how to replicate these addresses.
8. Log out as an "Administrator."
To set up your network or make changes to the settings, you'll need to log in as an "Administrator." Once you're done, log out as an "Administrator" to lessen the risk of someone gaining control of your network.