5 Tips to Enhance Home Wi-Fi Network Security
Connecting to the internet through a Wi-Fi connection is convenient for everyone in a household. Kids can operate gaming devices in their rooms while work-at-home adults can set up their laptops or tablets anywhere inside, or even outside their homes. However, Wi-Fi convenience comes at a price — reduced Wi-Fi security. Fortunately, there is no need to give up the convenience of Wi-Fi. The five tips listed below enhance home Wi-Fi network security, and are simple enough to set up without the need for tech support or an in-house service call.
Beef Up Network Encryption
There are three major network encryption protocols: Wired Equivalent Protection (WEP), Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and WPA2. WPA2 provides the strongest level of Wi-Fi security and is the encryption protocol of choice. WEP is an older protocol that provides much less protection. However, some older routers only use WEP encryption. Likewise, TiVo and many gaming devices are only compatible with WEP encryption. If giving up those devices is not an option, WEP encryption is better than none.
Say No to Defaults
Most wireless routers have an assigned standard default password that allows users to set up their networks and operate routers as “administrators.” These passwords should be changed immediately. Likewise, many routers have an option for remote access for troubleshooting. This feature should be disabled. It can be reactivated if technical support is needed. After a network has been set up, users should log out as “administrator” to prevent hackers from gaining unauthorized access and control of their networks.
Many routers use manufacturer names, like “Linksys” as default service set identifier (SSID) names. However, hackers can use manufacturer names to exploit known weaknesses, so default SSID names should be changed. Avoid using family names as SSID replacement names to limit poaching by neighbors. Setting the SSID to “hidden” adds an extra layer of Wi-Fi security by requiring users to know the name of the network in order to access it.
Limit Device Access
The best Wi-Fi network is much less secure if anyone and everyone can gain access without a password. Set secure passwords for Wi-Fi networks and give family members strict instructions not to share them. Parents should set up network access for young children or guests rather than giving them the password. Passwords should also be changed frequently. Setting up media access code (MAC) to Wi-Fi networks by limiting access to specific device serial numbers limits access to a known set of devices. Unrecognized devices can be quickly identified — and access eliminated if needed.
Don’t Forget Mobile Devices
Many mobile apps are now capable of accessing Wi-Fi networks directly. Strong passwords are a must for any mobile app with Wi-Fi network access. Users should log out of mobile apps when they’re not being used to limit the risk of unauthorized access. Likewise, mobile devices should be password-protected to prevent hacking — or in case the device is lost or stolen.
Center Your Signal Footprint
Wi-Fi router signals often extend far beyond the walls of a home or an apartment. Unscrupulous neighbors or even passers by can — and frequently do — “squat” on unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Placing the Wi-Fi router near the center of a home or apartment ensures that the signal carries throughout the house or apartment while limiting how far the signal is carried out onto the street or into a neighbor’s apartment. For Wi-Fi networks located in two-story homes, placing the router on a high shelf in a room on the lower level ensures that the signal carries to rooms located upstairs.
Keeping Wi-Fi Networks Safe
Maintaining Wi-Fi security for a home network takes work, but the effort is worthwhile. And after initial setup, keeping home networks safe becomes routine. And while no set of strategies can prevent all unauthorized access, employing the strategies listed above goes a long way toward protecting home Wi-Fi networks from poachers and hackers.