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Have You Secured Your Home WiFi? Read this.

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Your home WiFi security is important and here's why. I've had people say to me;

"so what if someone else is using our wifi, as long as it doesn't slow us down I don't care".

OK, being relaxed is cool. I can do relaxed! But for example, if someone is downloading child pornography using your home network, you're the one who going to get the visit from the police, not to mention the very lengthy process of trying to prove that it wasn't in fact you (despite it being your own private wifi network). I think you get the idea...

WiFi Routers Are Built Insecure...

The box that produces your WiFi signal is called a router and unfortunately, they often come straight out of the factory in an insecure state. Rubbish I know. We need to make a few tweaks to ensure it is only accessible by our family and guests. If a hacker compromises our home network they could have access to all of the devices connected to it (computers, laptops, gaming devices, TVs, tablets, baby monitors, smart phones and even appliances like the fridge)! As such, we must ensure our home WiFi is secure from external attacks.

How Do I Change The WiFi Settings?

Performing the following actions will lock down your router. Accessing the settings is easy – you do it via your web browser. Simply go to this website, enter the make and model of your router and the website will provide you the URL address to type into your web browser to access the settings.

What Settings Should I Select?

1. Change the Default and Admin Passwords

The WiFi box will come with a pre-set password that is standard for all those types of WiFi routers sold. For example, 0000 or 1234. If you’ve simply been given a default password like “admin123” an attacker could simply google the generic default password for your WiFi router and use that to log in directly into your network. Even if you’ve been given a unique password, your WiFi provider might suffer a data breach resulting in your password being disclosed online. All we have to do, is change the default and admin passwords to something unique (follow the password guidelines in the Passwords chapter). Don’t worry, if you forget the password, there is usually a rest button on the box itself to reset it back to the factory default. Once you’ve updated your passwords you’ll need to update all devices connected to your WiFi, but don’t worry, you’ll only need to do this once for each device.

2. Choose Your Security Level

Without boring you to death with technical jargon, there are a number of different levels of security for the wireless signal. The most secure is WPA2 so check in the router configuration that this is selected. Most routers do support it nowadays, but if WPA2 is not an option select the next best available – WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access). WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) is not secure at all – never select this. If you only have WEP available then buy a new router because people use a tool called ‘Aircrack’ to break it and access your devices via your WiFi.

3. Software / Firmware Updates

Ensure the router will automatically look for and download its own firmware updates (these will update known vulnerabilities that get discovered over time). If it doesn’t support this, contemplate buying an updated router that automatically downloads security patches to save yourself the need to periodically log in and manually update it yourself. To ensure it does this, register new devices online as this will ensure it automatically receives the latest software updates.

Optional Stuff For Added Security...

4. Create a guest password

An unknown little factoid about our WiFi boxes is that most allow us to setup a separate password for guest use. This makes it more secure for you and more convenient for guests as the password can be something memorable rather than a string of 30 random letters and numbers which are impossible to remember and take forever to type in.

5. Change the router name (SSID)

The default router ID that comes with your WiFi box is called a ‘service set identifier’ (SSID) – it’s essentially the name of your WiFi network. These IDs can give quite a lot away about the router that is broadcasting your WiFi signal. Hackers use this ID to find out what make and model of WiFi router yours is, then they research if there are any known vulnerabilities on it that you may not have patched. As such, it can be a good idea to change the SSID to a unique name so it doesn’t give away this key information. Please don’t use something like “Can’t hack this” as one thing hackers do enjoy is a challenge! I would suggest something inconspicuous so that if a hacker is scanning for a target they will pass over it and move onto something else, e.g. Canon Inkjet 2567 – a printer won’t be overly interesting to an attacker.

That’s it and best of all, all of the above are what I call ‘once-and-done-ers’– once you’ve completed it, it’s done for the foreseeable future!

Top Tip: If you suspect a cheeky neighbour is free-riding your WiFi and clogging up your bandwidth, then use one of the following free tools  to see all the devices connected to your WiFi and by process of elimination you’ll be able to see if any of your neighbours (or anyone more sinister) is connecting.

1) Fing (iOS/Android)
2) Acrylic Wi-Fi (Windows)
3) Who Is On My Wi-Fi (Mac)

In the unlikely event that you do detect someone else using your WiFi, lock down your security settings (Steps 1-3 and 5 above) immediately.

There you have it! Home WiFi security is an often confused topic. If you have any questions head over to the forum I run here and I’d be happy to answer them!

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