Secure Your Home Network and Devices with These 5 Steps
Is your home network — and the devices on it — vulnerable to hackers? Recent news about a widespread hack of the U.S. government has got many people worried, not just about national security, but about the safety and security of their own data and devices, in their own homes.
And while you’re right to be concerned, there’s no reason to panic. Instead, stay calm, and take stock of your home network, your devices, and what you need to do and buy to stay safe. If you follow these five steps, you may not be able to prevent every cyber attack, but you can at least make yourself a less attractive target — and perhaps encourage hackers to look for lower-hanging fruit elsewhere.
1) Assess Your Needs
When it comes to securing a home network, different homes will have different needs, based on what devices they have and how many of them. Each connected device that you bring into your home opens up another doorway through which hackers could potentially access your network, so it’s best to think carefully before you add another smart home device, smart appliance, smart TV, smart lightbulb, or other connected device to your home network.
But, if you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already got several devices connected to your home network, and some, if not all, of your Internet of Things (IoT) devices might become useless if they can’t connect to the internet (even though you don’t actually need an internet connection just to clean the floor, Roomba). So consider what kinds of devices you have and what you need to protect them. Devices like tablets, smart phones, and computers will have dedicated antivirus software to protect them from malware, but things like smart home assistants, smart TVs and appliances, and other IoT devices might not run antivirus software and may not even have systems robust enough to accommodate it. If you have a lot of IoT devices, you might want to consider segregating them on a guest network so they can still operate, but won’t provide hackers a means to access the rest of your devices.
2) Secure Your Router
Have you changed your router or wireless gateway’s admin credentials? We’re not talking about the SSID and password you use to connect to your home network — no, we mean the username and password you use to log in to the router’s admin dashboard, which you can find by navigating to its IP address. The default login credentials of most router brands and models are available on the internet via a simple web search. So, the first thing you should do after installing a new router or gateway is to find out what those default credentials are, access your router’s admin dashboard, and change your username and password. Then, set your router to WPA3 encryption and tell it to automatically install firmware updates.
3) Get a Security Suite
The right security suite will provide comprehensive protection for your devices, even when you’re not on your home network. You need antivirus and anti-malware protection for your phones, tablets, and computers, as well as identity protection, password managers, protection for mobile devices, and virtual private network (VPN) security for when you use public networks. Choose a suite that offers protection for all of the devices in your home.
4) Enable 2FA
You should be using a strong, hard-to-guess password for all of your online accounts and devices. You shouldn’t be using the same password for everything, either, because that means that if hackers guess one of your passwords, they can access all of your accounts. And yes, you do need to password-protect your laptops, tablets, phones, and other devices — if your device is stolen, password protection could keep the thief out long enough for you to wipe it remotely.
However, hackers have a number of resources available to help them crack passwords, including software that can access your accounts and devices by brute force attack. Enable two-factor authentication on all your devices and accounts. This adds an extra layer of security that can make it harder for hackers to access your information, even if they have your passwords.
5) Keep Firmware and Software Updated
Are you one of those people who keeps putting off software updates? Maybe you see them as a waste of time, or you’re suspicious that updates might slow down your old phone. But you should definitely go ahead and install those software and firmware updates as soon as they’re available, because they contain patches for security flaws that have been detected in the software since it was first released. Many of the most well-known cyber attacks in the recent past were successful in large part because so many people fail to keep their devices updated, so make sure you set all your devices to update automatically, or at least to download automatically and prompt for installation.
When it comes to protecting your home network and devices, you can’t be too careful. Take steps to keep hackers from targeting you, so you can focus on taking care of your family and living your best life.