Do you use a wireless router at home? Most people do. With that they have their computers, tablets, and phones connected to their wireless home network system. Those same people likely store sensitive personal & financial information along with logins & passwords on their devices. That makes the wireless home network an unsuspecting prime target for hackers. What’s worse is that most people don’t even know it can happen to them, and if it does, they’ll likely never find out. Below are three easy steps to take precautionary measures and make it much harder for people to break into your network and steal your information.
#1 Change the Network Name & Password
Every wireless router comes with a default network name (SSID) like “NETGEAR – 127”. This default name is usually tied to a specific manufacturer & router model, think of a car make & model. What you may not know is that there are dictionaries with the default passwords for every manufacturer’s router model that can easily be found online which hackers use to try to login to these default-set routers. If the router name was never changed, hackers can narrow down the search for the correct dictionary pretty quickly. So, step one would be to change the default router name to something more creative like “PANCAKES”. Try to avoid using your name or anything that would identify the network as yours. People tend to use easy-to-guess passwords so giving up your personal info in the router’s name can also aid in the password cracking process since there is a higher chance that commonly known personal information, such as a pet’s name, date of birth, child’s name, etc. has been included in the password. While you’re tinkering with the SSID, go ahead and change that password to something amazingly hard to guess. See #3 below for more info on that.
#2 Change the Router’s Internal Username and Password
Every wireless router has an internal operating system, which, if someone is logged into said network, can be accessed from almost any device. Even if you take step #1 into consideration, you should also update the login credentials to the router itself. What I’m referring to here is the router’s access login information, not to be confused with the network login information. For example, Netgear routers use a default username as ‘admin’ and password as ‘password’. If a hacker was ever successful at logging into your network, they could easily takeover the router and change everything about your wireless home network. So could a friend, child, or spouse. Take a couple of minutes and change this login information as well for extra protection.
#3 Update Your Router’s Security
There are three standard levels of protection to choose from, but which one is best? Today’s routers typically come with a default setting of WPA2 security, the highest level of encryption currently available. If your router is older, it may have a default setting of WPA security, less secure but still pretty good. If your router is significantly dated, it may use WEP security, a vulnerable level of security. If your router uses this lower level of security, or offers WPA2/WPA, you should seriously consider making the change on the router or purchasing a newer model that supports modern security levels. WPA2 being the best improves the security of a network with its use of stronger 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). In addition, WPA2 requires a longer password than WPA making it tougher for hackers to guess. Simply put, it could take years to crack a password with WPA2 security and a strong password so hackers will be deterred and move on.
A note on passwords, as a general rule of thumb, the longer and more complex the password, the more secure and the harder for dictionaries or hackers to guess. Using special characters, both lowercase and uppercase letters, and numbers is always a good idea for added protection. You may also want to consider the use of sentences or phrases for your password for added security.
With our lives living in the digital world we have to take precautions to protect our information. It’s no longer just the device manufacturers’ or service provider’s responsibility, it’s everyone’s. The simple steps above will take less than 30 minutes to implement and could quite possibly ward off an attacker and protect your sensitive information.