We have included non technical advice to make upgrading security easy for anyone.
Step 1: Secure Your Router
Your wireless router is like the mothership for your Wi-Fi network. If its defences are down, your internet connection and every device that uses it are vulnerable to hackers, viruses, and other cyber threats. Put up your shield and thwart attackers with these router security tips.
Start with a Secure Router
Most people use the router provided by their internet service provider (ISP), but that’s not always the most secure option. Instead, purchase a router with features like guest access and parental controls. We recommend the Linksys AE6900, which also includes firewalls and is at a competitive price.
Rename Your Network
All routers come with a default network name, or SSID (service set identifier). Hackers can tell what kind of router you have based on the SSID, which makes your Wi-Fi network easier to hack. Change the name, but avoid using personal information (like “Pete’s Wi-Fi”) and don’t tempt fate with a name like “Unhackable.”
There are many types of encryption out there, and their names look like a jumbled mess of alphabet soup. Your options are WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy), WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access), and WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2). Word is, that WPA3 is just around the corner. Once on the job, encryption protects all the data that flits in and out of your network. The one you want to use today is WPA2 it is the most secure and the least likely to be vulnerable to attack.
Activate the Firewall
Because you already followed our first tip, you have a wireless router with a built-in firewall. But it only keeps you safe if it’s activated. The firewall helps hide your network from cyber attackers looking for targets. To find your router’s built-in firewall, log into your router’s administrative settings and look for a tab or page labeled “firewall” or “security.” Next, look for an enable button. Click that button and hit save or apply. It’s that simple.
Keep Software Updated
Sometimes I feel like software updates have a personal vendetta against me. But their annoying presence is only there to keep our devices and information safe. And that applies to routers as well. Some routers automatically perform updates, but even if that’s the case, you should set a monthly reminder to check in and see if there are any firmware or software updates waiting for your attention.
Top Tip: Change the default IP address on your router.
Step 2: Use Strong Passwords
This is nothing new, but strong passwords are a cornerstone of online security. When you set up your wireless network, you get to come up with some more passwords to add to your collection. To control your Wi-Fi network, you’ll need an administrator password. You’ll also need a password to connect to the network.
Top Tip: Use a passphrase instead of a password.
Step 3: Protect the Devices That Use Your Network
Every device that connects to and uses your Wi-Fi network is a potential gateway to trouble. To keep out as many threats as possible, make sure the devices that use your network aren’t carriers for viruses, malware, or hackers. We recommend the tools below to fortify the wireless devices that connect to your wireless network.
Internet Security Software
Even though your computer, phone, or tablet may already come with some security features, it’s smart to double-down and add an extra layer of protection with third-party internet security software. This software fights off malware, viruses, and other online threats. There are many types of internet security software to choose from, and they can be free or require a monthly (or yearly) subscription. To narrow the field, take a look at our security product reviews for more information.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A VPN creates a private tunnel between your wireless network and the internet. It keeps hackers and other troublemakers from tracking your online activity. It also hides your network and IP address from the outside world. A VPN is usually a paid service that sets up a virtual server that you’ll log into every time you go online.
It’s most important to use a VPN when you’re away from home, using a public hotspot. But many experts recommend logging into a VPN any time you go online. If you want to a popular and reliable VPN, we recommend Express VPN. It costs around $9 a month and comes with a 7 day trial period, it is straightforward to use and offers that extra online security at a low cost.
Parental Control Software
This is a more specific type of online security, but if you have little ones (or teens) at home, this can be your network security silver bullet. Parental control software helps you keep kids away from inappropriate content, and it can even monitor social media interactions and look out for cyberbullying. Best of all, it usually comes with antivirus and anti-malware protection—so you only need to make one purchase to get multiple benefits.
Our overall best pick for parental control software is Net Nanny. It’s an industry pioneer with a string of awards and positive customer reviews. You can also use it to protect computers and mobile devices, which isn’t always the case with parental control software.
Also see: How to keep kids safe online
Non technical Solutions to Secure Your Wi-Fi
Not every network security solution requires software or top-secret passwords. There are other easy things you can do to make your wireless network more secure. These measures don’t require any tech savvy or software, but they can make a big difference when it comes to keeping miscreants off your home Wi-Fi network.
- Disable Wi-Fi when not in use (holidays, etc.).
- Put the router in the middle of the house to reduce the reach of your network.
- Dial down the creativity when it comes to network names—boring names attract less attention.
- Use a timed outlet to shut down the router every day at bedtime or before dinner. (Okay, this a bit techie.)
Also see: Wi-Fi Network Security FAQs
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