WiFi Security: Tips to Enhance Your Home Wireless Network Security
The internet is an integral part of our lives, especially our home Wi-Fi networks, which keep our IoT devices connected and operational. Our smart homes are complete with robot vacuum cleaners, smart security cameras and thermometers, and smart assistants that are constantly sending data to the cloud. Each device contains a piece of the puzzle.
But imagine if a small vulnerability in your Wi-Fi security lets a criminal or hacker sneak in. Just how much information would that individual be able to access? It could be a password for an online account, your Wi-Fi credentials, or the entire contents of your business email inbox.
It doesn’t take much to compromise your Wi-Fi security – even devices like smart lightbulbs have been shown to leak Wi-Fi passwords. The potential threats to Wi-Fi access points are more dangerous than you might realize.
Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to bolster it either – just read this article and apply the 10 best practice measures listed below.
What is a Home Wireless Network?
A home wi-fi network is one that has been installed in your home by yourself or your internet service provider (ISP). It connects to your internet router and other smart devices using a wireless signal and will be password protected.
While public Wi-Fi is convenient, it can leave your devices open to threats. The network is accessible by countless others and could be malicious as you can never be sure how, or who, set it up.
Once installed, most of us never give our home Wi-Fi network another thought but we should be just as concerned about our home network security as we are our online privacy while using public Wi-Fi.
Living in an era when ransomware and malware infections are common, and network sniffing and Man-in-the-Middle attacks are rising, we should always be aware of our internet security.
Your Wi-Fi password might stop your neighbors from connecting to your home Wi-Fi, but alone it isn’t enough to stop cybercriminals from listening in to your traffic or infiltrating your home network to launch a malicious attack.
The more IoT gadgets you have, the more vulnerable you are. Even if your home Wi-Fi security includes an encrypted connection, other “out-of-the-box” settings on your router could be making you vulnerable to attack.
10 Tips on How to Secure Wi-Fi at Home
1. Use a strong and unique password
Every wireless router comes with a default username and password which can be conveniently used to install it and complete the configurations. Default passwords are easy for hackers to guess, especially if they can figure out who manufactured the router.
When it comes to how to secure Wi-Fi, changing both the username and password is a crucial first step. A strong password should contain a combination of letters, symbols, and numbers, and be at least 20 characters in length. It’s also important to avoid common password faux pas.
It might be annoying for friends wanting to use your home Wi-Fi connection, but it will also frustrate hackers looking to sneak in through the back door.
2. Use a VPN to mask your connection
A VPN is one of the most effective cybersecurity tools around. It encrypts your data, masks your location, and hides your IP address. While you can get VPN apps for each device you use, a more effective solution is to boost your Wi-Fi security with one of the best VPNs for routers.
Once your VPN is installed on your router, you’ll no longer have to install a separate VPN on each IoT device. It will also boost your home network security by adding another layer of encryption on top of your Wi-Fi security.
Look for a reputable, no-logging VPN that is compatible with your router, or simple enough to customize. ExpressVPN, for example, has apps for Linksys WRT3200ACM and Netgear routers and detailed guides on how to set up the VPN on other popular makes.
3. Change your network name
Many routers come with a pre-configured SSID (service set identifier) which acts as the network’s name, distinguishing it from other Wi-Fi networks nearby. Companies assign either random SSIDs or simply give the network the name of the router brand.
As the network name is publicly broadcast, potential hackers can work out who is either too ignorant or too lazy to change it from its default setting, suggesting substandard Wi-Fi security.
Experts recommend changing “the network’s SSID to something that does not disclose any personal information” which you can easily do by logging into your router’s settings.
4. Activate or boost your network encryption
All Wi-Fi routers come with some form of encryption which gives you some home network security, even if it’s not quite as secure as the AES 256-bit encryption used by the best VPNs.
Currently, the best encryption available in terms of Wi-Fi security is the WPA2 protocol, although that will soon change with the introduction of WPA3.
Although most routers now support WPA 2, it may not be the default Wi-Fi security protocol. You can check your home network security by following these simple steps:
- Enter your router’s IP address into a web browser
- Locate the control panel and log in
- Select WPA 2 as your network authentication
- Choose AES for your data encryption
5. Activate your firewall
Firewalls come in all shapes and sizes, including hardware varieties that form a crucial part of your Wi-Fi security. Nearly all routers come with an in-built firewall, but many are turned off in the default settings, meaning they often lie unused and unnoticed.
A firewall adds another layer to your home network security by blocking malicious attacks and preventing an infected device on your network from putting others at risk.
Enabling your router’s firewall is a crucial step in securing your home Wi-Fi network, but not all routers offer the same level of sophistication when it comes to Wi-Fi security. Look for a router firewall that includes the following features:
- Antivirus protection
- Denial of service protection
- Web filtering/parental controls
6. Keep your router and IoT software up to date
This is one of those standard cybersecurity best practices that applies as much to your smartphone security as it does the security of your home Wi-Fi network.
Software is constantly evolving as new security flaws and vulnerabilities are exposed. By keeping your software up to date, you get the benefit of the latest patches and fixes, making your home network more secure.
Patching your software is the cybersecurity equivalent of getting your car serviced regularly. To maintain the highest standard of Wi-Fi security, you should patch as soon as possible and remove any software for which updates are no longer available.
7. Hide your network
Even though you’ve now changed your SSID, you can still boost your Wi-Fi security even further by hiding your network name. If you head over to your router settings and deselect any options relating to broadcasting the network name, you’ll stop your browser from automatically publicizing it.
Although this small action can improve your home network security, it won’t transform it into Fort Knox. Even a hidden Wi-Fi network can be detected by hackers familiar with Wi-Fi scanning tools. Nevertheless, each step we take towards ultimate home network security is a step in the right direction. It’s worth taking this simple measure even if it won’t solve all your Wi-Fi security issues.
8. Turn off your home Wi-Fi network when you’re not using it
Leaving your home Wi-Fi network on when you’re away from home for a prolonged period is equivalent to leaving all your windows open. Any passing opportunistic hacker could spot your Wi-Fi connection and access it.
While some routers make this Wi-Fi security habit simple by providing a physical on/off switch, others require you to change the settings in the administrative console. There you can either disable wireless or switch your wireless network mode off.
9. Disable Remote Access
If your router is one of those that allows you to access it from a remote system, your Wi-Fi security is compromised. Any malicious hacker could access your router’s privacy settings, even if the device they were using wasn’t connected to your network.
A username and password simply aren’t enough, especially if you’re using a D-Link router. Last year, researchers discovered the existence of a severe remote code execution vulnerability in a range of D-Link routers which would render login credentials useless.
Fortunately, newer models show no signs of such security flaws but disabling remote access is still a recommended step when it comes to how to secure Wi-Fi networks at home.
10. Provide a separate network for IoT devices
As our homes get smarter, our Wi-Fi security needs to get smarter with it. The more IoT devices you have, the more endpoints there are within your network, and therefore more access points for hackers to exploit.
Keeping all your IoT devices up-to-date can also be challenging, especially given how many have dubious security measures in the first place. By setting up a second network just for your IoT devices, you can prevent those flaws from jeopardizing your overall Wi-Fi security.
Your home Wi-Fi might be a lot safer than public Wi-Fi, but it’s not impenetrable. A clever hacker could break into your Wi-Fi network and access your security cameras, turning them on you and your family. Worse still, they could access all your banking details, personally identifiable information, and other sensitive data.
While smart homes, smart personal assistants, and IoT devices make our lives easier, they also compromise our home network security, creating countless access points, and, potentially, leaking your Wi-Fi security settings all over cyberspace.
So how do you secure Wi-Fi and prevent the vulnerabilities in smart assistants and IoT devices from diminishing your home network security? Think of your Wi-Fi security as an onion, with each component adding another layer of protection. If you take all 10 of the suggestions listed here, you’ll have a seriously thick skin which will bring hackers to tears when they start trying to peel them back.