With more than a million new malware threats released onto the web every day, and with cybercriminals earning billions of dollars a year with hacking and scams, true cybersecurity might feel like a pipe dream. However, the truth is that a home user who suffers a cyber-attack didn’t do the utmost to keep their home network and devices safe. The smartest, most aggressive attacks are waged against mega-organizations with hundreds of millions of dollars to lose; hackers who go after average Joes at home are using outdated methods that take advantage of well-known vulnerabilities — meaning you can avoid them and stay completely safe if you know how.
Fortunately, learning how to keep your home network secure doesn’t take much time — only about as long as it takes to read this post. Keep reading to find out how easy it is to avoid cyber-attacks at home.
A secure home network always starts with a secure router. You might imagine your router as the exterior walls of your network: If you take the time to build and maintain strong walls, they will keep you safe from rain, pests and intruders, but if you don’t do anything to keep your walls standing, they will start to crumble, developing cracks and holes that anyone could easily penetrate.
Routers fresh from the box are riddled with vulnerabilities that will make your network an easy target for attackers. Here are a few steps you should take to secure your router:
Update your firmware: Your router requires firmware to function, but over time, that firmware could develop vulnerabilities for fail to stand up against incoming threats. Every few months, you should check for firmware updates through your router’s admin page and install any that are available.
Enable encryption: An encrypted wireless signal doesn’t impact your internet use, but it does prevent passersby from seeing and connecting to your network without your permission. Through your router menu, you should enable an encryption option that begins with WPA2 — and if WPA2 isn’t available, you should invest in a new router.
Change names and passwords: Routers come with default logins, which are available in lists online. On one hand, the availability of this info means you’ll never be locked out of your own device; on the other hand, it means any attacker can brute-force their way into your device by trying different default login credentials. Through your router menu, you should make a unique name for your network and a unique password, so this type of easy attack isn’t possible.
Control which devices connect: If you want a high-tech security measure, you can turn off the DHCP server of your router and manually enter in the static IP addresses for each of your connected devices. You can also turn on Multimedia Access Control (MAC) filtering, so you can specify which MAC addresses are allowed to connect. It might be wise to set up a guest network if you go this route, so you don’t have to research your guests’ devices’ MAC addresses and enter them in whenever they visit.
Home network security products come in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles. You can utilize network security software, which routinely scans your network for signs of intrusion. You can also install a physical security device, which connects to your router and monitors the safety of every connected device in your home. In any case, you should use a product that instantly notifies you of threats and allows you to review connected devices and recent events, ideally through an intuitive portal on your computer or smartphone. This will make managing your network security much simpler.
If you keep punching holes in your own walls, it doesn’t matter how strong they once were. The same is true of your network security; you need to know and apply good habits that keep your network safe. Here are a few network-related cyber hygiene practices that you need to adopt today:
- Avoid messages from unknown senders, especially if they contain links or attachments.
- Stay away from risky websites and never download from a third-party site.
- Do not share your router login credentials with anyone, and be sparing with whom you share your wireless network login information.
- Back up your devices often, ideally to the cloud or a device that isn’t perpetually connected to your network.
It’s foolish to believe that your network isn’t a target for a cyberattack, but the good news is it doesn’t take a genius to keep a home network safe. With a few small tweaks to your router, a security tool and smarter behaviour, you can avoid attacks into the future.