How to Secure Your Home’s Wireless Router
Steps you can take today to lock down your network
Wi-Fi makes it incredibly easy and convenient to use the internet from your computer, tablet, smartphone, and other devices—but that same ease of use makes your home network more vulnerable to intrusion. Fortunately, you can keep your router and your network safe from hackers with a few relatively simple precautions.
The first thing you should do is ensure that you have an administrator username and password for your router—the box that plugs into the wall and delivers an internet connection to your home—itself, which is different from the password you use for your wireless network.
You can generally log into your network’s router by entering 192.168.0.1 into the address bar in your browser; if you have trouble, Google “log into [your router brand name and model number].” In the admin panel for your router, you can change the administrator password to anything you want, rather than leaving the default password. Just be sure that you save your password someplace safe—Arvig recommends the free LastPass utility. It can generate and save passwords for you, and it can even sync the information between your computer, phone, tablet, and other devices, and it’s completely free.
Once you’ve set up your router with a secure password, make sure that your wireless network itself is secured with WPA2-PSK (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 Pre-Shared Key), the best level of security for home wireless networks.
Choose a password that will be easy for you to remember and share with guests who arrive and want to log on to your network, but difficult enough that your neighbors won’t be able to guess it. A childhood phone number combined with the name of a favorite teacher can make for a password that you can instantly recite, but that others won’t guess easily.
Some newer routers offer the option of making a guest network so that when friends come to visit you can let them access your Wi-Fi without putting them on your primary network—where your devices can be accessed. If you choose to enable this option, make sure that you also put a password on the guest network, rather than leaving it open – and use a different password from the one you choose for your primary network. Be aware of the risks that come with adding guests to your network. You probably don’t need to worry about Aunt Maude, but your teen’s friends might be a different story.
Installing ad blocker software on your computer can also protect you from outside threats, as malicious software often hides in online ads. That’s because websites rent out space for ads, and the ads may have no real connection to the site you’re visiting. If you’re interested in ad blocker software, consider uBlock Origin, an ad-blocker for Chrome and Firefox that runs efficiently, without wasting computer resources. uBlock Origin also offers broad filter control so that you can determine which sites you trust—and which you prefer to block.
If the greatest threat to the security of your network comes from within your home – say, in the form of teenagers—you may want to engage parental controls on your router. Check the user guide for your router to see what specific controls you can enable; generally speaking, you can configure your router to enable or disable wireless Internet access to specific devices on the network at specific times of day. Fair warning: technically savvy teens may be able to find their way around any parental controls you enable – no app is a substitute for good parenting.
With careful configuration, you can keep your router and your home network safe from intrusion, and setting aside an hour to review your security settings every so often is a great idea.