How to Secure your Wi-Fi? – Connected devices are taking over our homes. Not only smartphones and laptops, but wide ranges of products such as smart lights, air conditioners, smart locks, doors, kitchen appliances and devices that are connected to the voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant are becoming a necessity for our lifestyle. All the internet operated connected device are solving our daily life problems and our home Wi-Fi enable them to function smoothly. As we say these are internet-connected devices, we should look a step ahead and scrutinise the security aspects related to it. These devices are connected with the Wi-Fi but the question is how secure is your Wi-Fi?
Your Wi-Fi router is like the main gate of your home, anything that goes out and enters in your home has to go through the gate. While it is also well known that the gate needs to be defended as many unwanted visitors may be looking for an opening to get into your home. Access to even the slightest of the entry points can put your home on the risk of invasion by these unwanted visitors.
The hackers are always looking for that slightest of the entry points to make way into your connected devices through Wi-Fi. Getting access to the Wi-Fi can also give control over all the connected devices. They can cause major financial, reputational and informational loss. Just think if you use smart locks on your doors and if your Wi-Fi gets compromised then you can be locked out of your own home. Similarly, hackers can give commands to your home’s voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant which can include your financial information. If Wi-Fi router gets compromised, the risks are immense and this also calls for the need for enhanced security for your home’s Wi-Fi router.
It’s a very common practice that people think that they are not vulnerable to any kind of threat and continue to use the admin details as their Wi-Fi security measure. Many service providers use the same admin login and password in a locality or an area, which not only make one Wi-Fi connection vulnerable but also puts all the Wi-Fi connections on risk in the locality. Furthermore, some people do change the default login credentials but this is certainly not enough to make your Wi-Fi and connected devices secure. People seem to be reluctant about tweaking options in the Wi-Fi router after a new purchase and many don’t even bother to notice those options.
Giving just a little more time to learn about and apply the enhanced security measures can save not only your personal information but also increase protection for your Wi-Fi network.
How Wi-Fi routers work?
The Wi-Fi router connects all the nearby devices and provides access to a modem which further communicates with the web. Wi-Fi routers deal in data packets which are sent from the connected devices. The data is packaged into blocks with identifying markers, making checks for any errors, address labels and then transmitted to the wider web. Wi-Fi routers also keep the data separate for separate devices and applications installed in those devices. Similarly, it receives data packages from outside and sends it into the connected devices.
Speed and functioning of Wi-Fi routers depend upon the technology used in the manufacturing. The one with better technology will identify and transmit data faster and also allow more devices to connect with it without compromising on bandwidth.
Basics of Wi-Fi Router security
Wi-Fi router gives a single IP address to all your connected devices in the process of connecting to the web. It handles the IP addresses for the individual connected devices itself. It also acts as a basic firewall against the unwanted traffic from the internet. This is done by Network Address Translation (NAT) routing. (Network Address Translation hides all the IP addresses of all the connected devices behind an IP address). So, NAT routing checks the data packets coming into the devices and going out from the device. If it found that the particular data packet is not requested by any of the connected devices, it immediately blocks it or discards it before reaching to the devices. Below are the tips to secure your Wi-Fi network.
Install Wi-Fi Router Security Updates Regularly
It is highly recommended to regularly install the updates for your Wi-Fi router. Many Wi-Fi routers do come with the facility of auto-update but if your Wi-Fi router model is old then you can manually update the regularly released security patches and updates by the router manufacturer.
Change your router login and password
The default password for most of the Wi-Fi routers and network services has been set to admin as username and password as the password for utilizing the services. Not changing the existing password is the most common mistake a person can do. This is the very first combination that a hacker will try. It is advisable to immediately change the password of the Wi-Fi router if it is still the one which is provided by the service provider.
There are many ways to create a strong password which should be a combination of alphabets (both uppercase and lowercase), numbers and special characters. To easily remember the password, make a sentence and use the first letters of each sentence and include some numbers which could be your house number, street number or digits of your mobile number. Insert these cautiously and do not forget to include an extra special character. For example: ‘I have a pet dog who was born in 2015 and his name is Roman’, so the password here could be ‘Ihapdwwbi@2015ahniR’. You can use a similar trick to create your passwords for different services and platforms.
Use WPA2 to secure your wireless network
Passwords are the easiest gateway to exploit someone’s Wi-Fi network. The first thing to remember is that you should never use WEP password while setting up a Wi-Fi network. WEP passwords are easier to break in case of a brute-force attack. It is recommended to use WPA2 password protection, which is a much stronger protocol. If your Wi-Fi router doesn’t support WPA2 passwords, then probably you are using a very old Wi-Fi router and need an instant upgrade.
One other thing is to consider that some people also run an open Wi-Fi network. This may be helpful for the neighbors but it can be the easiest way for a hacker to enter into your Wi-Fi network as well as the connected devices.
Turn off Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS)
WPS seems to be an easy option where most people tend to use PIN number as a password considering it being easy. But guessing the combination of numbers which is your PIN is much easier than a complex alphanumeric password with special characters. In case of brute force attack, PIN passwords can be guessed easily in multiple attempts. Considering you have a 6 digit PIN as a password, then there are total 518400 possible combinations that you can match your password. During a brute force attack, multiple bots try possible combinations simultaneously and it will be only a matter of minutes to successfully decode the right combination which is your password. It is recommended to disable the WPS entirely.
Switch to a better DNS (Domain Name System)
Switching from your ISP’s DNS is a good idea. With this, you can increase the security factor and also avoid the man-in-the-middle attacks, pop-ups, website redirects and interstitials.
Use MAC filtering
MAC filtering can prove to be a better safeguard of your Wi-Fi network. Attackers can easily spoof a MAC address and put your network into a security risk. You should always allow the websites to be accessed from the networks which are whitelisted. However, this may be annoying but for the security of the connected devices and Wi-Fi network, this is a safe and secure step.
Consider Scheduling your Wi-Fi
This should be one practice to follow. We like to be connected to the home Wi-Fi as soon as we reach the door of the house. But while leaving, you should probably switch off the Wi-Fi router. If you are not at home then probably there is no use of keeping the internet connectivity on, as it is hard to hack a network which is not visible for the hackers.
Disable Potentially Sketchy Services
Users should consider not using any remote services from the home Wi-Fi router. It is advisable to disable all the extra services which allow remote connection or remote management. Check your Wi-Fi router if there is any options that can enabled remote management, remote administration, UPnP, FTP, cloud functionality, SSH or Telnet. It’s better to use your home Wi-Fi router from home as any form of remote access can be vulnerable and provide a gateway for the hackers.
A separate Wi-Fi network for guests and smart-home devices
While we most likely don’t think about this in length but creating a separate Wi-Fi network for connected devices at home and a separate guest network for the friends and relatives is definitely a good idea. While creating a guest network Wi-Fi router automatically sets up a different SSID for the connected devices from the existing network. You can easily customize the settings and allow them to use the Wi-Fi service securely. You can also choose your less secured connected devices to connect with this guest network so that in case of vulnerability only this device gets affected and your main network and connected devices remain safe.
Use an inconspicuous network name (SSID) (service set identifier)
Usually, people don’t make enough changes to the default settings while installing a new Wi-Fi connection, one of the things that they go along is SSID. Using the vendor or router’s name can be a potential threat for your Wi-Fi network. The hackers can crack the passwords easily in case they see a familiar looking SSID. The SSID also gives an impression of the user and it can be easily judged that how aware the user is about the security of its Wi-Fi network.
Always consider choosing SSID which do not reveal any information like your locality, area or company name. The SSIDs could be the anything but not an information, you can choose any funny quote, recipe name etc while creating an SSID for your Wi-Fi connection.
Always Access Wi-Fi Router Admin Panel with Ethernet
Always prefer to use the Ethernet while logging into the admin panel of your Wi-Fi connection. While it is easier to go into a web browser and type the IP address to get access to Wi-Fi router’s admin panel but the much safer and secure way is to use the Ethernet. In this way, the login credentials cannot be compromised and eliminates the risk.
Enable the Wi-Fi Router Firewall
Most of the advanced Wi-Fi routers are coming with inbuilt firewalls. This can be the most effective first wall of security for your Wi-Fi connection. The firewall compares all the data packages that are coming from the world web with its inbuilt database, if it finds the incoming network positive, it will allow a connection or else it immediately blocks the connection. Make sure that the firewall in your Wi-Fi router is switched on and running for the safe and secure browsing.
Check for rogue Wi-Fi access points
Rogue access points are something which you may not have installed but somebody else has put it to boost signal or for any suspicious work. This is something which you should always look for. Consider a case, where a hacker put a rogue access point with your connection and created a separate SSID and made the connection open. In this case, anyone can access your Wi-Fi connection and can use adversely. Make a check nearby your router or use some advanced software and scan your Wi-Fi connection regularly to keep a check on rogue access points.
Use a VPN (virtual private network)
A VPN keeps your entire private data private by encrypting all the data which is sent from your end. This not only safeguards the data but also protect it from the prying eyes of the hackers who are constantly on the lookout for any vulnerability. Most of the Wi-Fi routers today have inbuilt VPN facility, make sure you switch it on.
Wi-Fi router security is definitely an important aspect of your digital life. As the generation depends largely on internet and internet connected devices, so a single mistake can not only compromise your personal information but can also pose financial losses. While using internet or any related services, protection is the best form of defence. Use the Wi-Fi router security measures to stay safe and secure in the online world.