Why securing your home network matters
If you’ve ever had a conversation about privacy or cybersecurity with someone, you will have heard the typical nonchalant response about them being not interesting or high profile enough to be hacked. Or maybe you’ve had that same thought yourself. That mindset is not only wrong, but it could also be dangerous. If you pay no mind to your security simply because you believe no one will target you, you might be unpleasantly surprised. Attackers may hold no interest in you specifically, but rather need your devices to add to their botnet. Or they may pick you randomly to steal your personal or banking information to sell in a large data block. The fact of the matter is, you don’t have to have something to hide or be interesting enough to become victim of an attack.
One of the more important security practices is not using public Wi-Fi for sensitive activities, such as logging into your banking or social media accounts. However, it’s not always stressed that home Wi-Fi can be equally unsecure. Via unsecure networks, attackers could spy on you, steal personal and banking information, or use your network to perform illegal activities. If your neighbor used your network to illegally download copyrighted content, you would be blamed for those actions as it is your network. And if that is not enough to persuade you to secure your home wifi network, think about someone freely using the Wi-Fi you pay for.
If you want to feel safe from hackers, you need to secure your home network. A protected home network means securing both your Wi-Fi and your devices. While you likely already know how to keep your computer secure, you may not realize how vulnerable unsecure Wi-Fi makes you. Fortunately, by following a few simple tips, you can secure both your computers and your network.
Home network security best practices
When you have Internet connected devices in your home, one of the most important things you need to do is secure your home network. If your home wireless network is unsecure, no one is stopping attackers from spying on your Internet activity and stealing passwords. By not taking proper security measures, many people unknowingly make it that much easier for attackers to hack into their devices. So what can you do to make your home network more secure?
Securing your Wi-Fi
If you have Wi-Fi in your home, chances are that everything was set up by your provider. Because everything from network name to password was set to default, your Wi-Fi router is probably not as secure as it should be. Fortunately, that is easily fixable.
- Wi-Fi network name
If you do not know what your network name is, you just need to check to what network your device is connected. It’s the name that devices will see when searching for nearby wireless networks. Your Wi-Fi router likely has a default name set up by your provider, which is usually something generic. One of the first things you should do when you have Wi-Fi set up is change the network name. By not changing the default name, you may be letting attackers know the exact model of your router. A simple search of the router’s model could give attackers a list of vulnerabilities they can exploit. The name should be something unique that you could easily identify but should not contain personal information. For example, do not use your name, your address or apartment number, or anything that could link it back to you. You can, however, make up a silly name, like ‘Area 51′.
- Wi-Fi password
If you have not changed your Wi-Fi password since you had it set up, it’s likely something very simple, like ‘password’ or ‘123456’. When providers set up your Wi-Fi, they expect you to change the default password soon after but unfortunately, that is rarely the case. And if you know anything about passwords, you know that the simpler it is, the easier it is to hack. Change your Wi-Fi password to something complex, and the more complicated it is, the better. You should also get into the habit of changing the password routinely.
- Guest network
When someone visits your home, more likely than not you will be asked for your Wi-Fi password. You might not think twice about it, but allowing your guests to connect to your home network poses a certain security risk. It’s not that you shouldn’t trust your guests to not spy on you, it’s more like guests could unknowingly download malware, which could spread to your connected devices as well via the network. An easy way to keep your network secure and your guest happy is to set up a guest network. If your Wi-Fi router allows you to create an additional network, there is no reason why you shouldn’t do it. You can easily find out how to set it up on your Wi-Fi router by using Google or another search engine.
Securing your devices
In addition to securing your Wi-Fi network, it’s important that you keep your devices protected. If you follow a few tips, you will be decreasing your chances of acquiring malware. You probably have heard it all before, but another reminder will not hurt.
- Anti-virus software
If you’re regularly using the Internet for whatever purpose, you are recommended to have anti-virus installed. It not only removes threats from your computer, but also prevents them entering in the first place. While some users believe that anti-virus is not necessary, that is only the case when a person is highly knowledgeable when it comes to malware and knows how to avoid it. With the majority of people, that is not the case.
There are plenty of options to choose from, both free and paid ones. Research the software properly to make sure that it’s both reputable and matches your needs. Once you install it, keep it running at all times.
- Good browsing habits
Malware does not come out of nowhere. An infection is usually the result of poor browsing habits. Those poor habits include opening spam email, clicking on unknown links and random ads, downloading copyrighted content for free, using questionable download sources, visiting suspicious websites, etc. If you develop good browsing habits, you could avoid a large portion of malware. For example, if you don’t open email attachments without making sure they are safe, you would be lessening your chances of acquiring ransomware (file-encrypting malware). By not clicking on random ads, you would be preventing redirects to dangerous sites, and by not downloading from questionable sources, you would be avoiding all kinds of malware.
- Up-to-date software
Software is not perfect and it often comes will all kinds of vulnerabilities. However, software vendors regularly release updates that patch those vulnerabilities. Updating your software is highly important, and in some cases, it could be the thing preventing serious malware from entering your computer. The WannaCry ransomware is the perfect example of this. WannaCry spread very rapidly and infected computers that did not have a certain patch installed, which was released months before the attack. As a result, more then 300,000 computers in many different countries got infected. To avoid such situations, update your software regularly.