Geraldine Strawbridge

Geraldine Strawbridge is a graduate from the University of Glasgow. As the Editor of Cyber Radio, Geraldine is focused on delivering the latest cyber security news whilst making cyber security more relatable to people in their everyday lives.

Our increasingly technological world means that our homes are now filled with a wide range of gadgets and devices that require an internet connection.

Whether it’s a computer, tablet, phone, fridge, TV or baby monitor, our increasing reliance on the internet to connect all our devices has opened us up to a range of security risks.

Many families are simply unaware of the risks that these devices pose unless they are protected with a secure Wi-Fi network. We would never dream of leaving the front door to our house open but leaving our Wi-Fi networks unsecured opens us up to the same security risks.

Hackers are opportunistic and ready to take advantage of any lapse in security to launch a targeted attack. If hackers gain entry to your home network, they can steal personal and financial information, infect your devices with viruses and malware, commit cyber-crime from your device or launch a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack.

Securing your home Wi-Fi is essential when it comes to keeping out attackers and protecting your family.

To protect your home and keep it safe from hackers, there are a number of steps you can take:

1. Change default username and password
The first and most important thing you should do to secure your home Wi-Fi network is change the default username and password to something more secure.

Wi-Fi providers automatically assign a username and password to the network and hackers can easily find these default passwords online. If they are able to gain entry to the network they can change the password to whatever they like, lock the owner out and hijack the network.

Changing the username and password makes it more difficult for attackers to identify a specific Wi-Fi network and gain entry. Hackers have sophisticated tools to test thousands of possible password and username combinations, so it is vital to choose a password that combines letters, numbers and symbols to make it more difficult to crack.

2. Turn on Wireless Network Encryption
Encryption is one of the most effective ways of safeguarding your data. Encryption works by scrambling your data or the contents of a message so that it cannot be deciphered by hackers.

The most secure type of encryption to use for your home Wi-Fi network is WPA2. If you have older devices that are up to 10 years old, they may not be compatible with WPA2 so it will be vital to upgrade your home devices for enhanced security and performance.

To check if your router uses WPA2 encryption, look at your network settings and check the wireless properties. This will enable you to select the best encryption method when you join a wireless network.

3. Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)
A VPN is a network that allows you to communicate over an unsecured, unencrypted network in a private way. A VPN encrypts your data so that a hacker cannot tell what you are doing online or where you are. It acts as a type of tunnel where the data is protected, and your activity cannot be viewed.

A VPN will also alter your IP address, making it appear that are using your computer from another location other than your home address. In addition to a desktop, it can also be used on any mobile device such as a laptop, phone or tablet.

4. Hide your network from view
When you are initially setting up your home network you will be asked to create a publicly visible network name, otherwise known as a SSID (Service Set identifier). Most devices are configured with a default network name that has been allocated by the manufacturer. There’s a good chance that if your neighbours have a device from the same manufacturer they will also have the same SSID which could be a security nightmare if both networks are unencrypted.

SSID hiding is a feature that will enable you to hide your network name from the list of people in the surrounding area. Changing the default name makes it a lot more difficult for a hacker to know what type of router you have, reducing the chance of attack.

5. Turn off your Wi-Fi network when not at home
It sounds simple but one of the easiest ways to protect your home network from attack is to turn it off when you’re not at home. For the sake of convenience, home owners will often leave their router and broadband modems on constantly, however your home Wi-Fi network does not need to be running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Turning off your Wi-Fi when you’re away from home reduces the chances of opportunistic hackers attempting to break into your home network when you are not in.

6. Keep your router software up to date
Wi-Fi software should be updated to protect the network security of your home. The router’s firmware like any other type of software can contain vulnerabilities that hackers are keen to exploit. Most routers will not have the option of an auto-update so you will need to manually update the software to ensure your home Wi-Fi is protected.

7. Use Firewalls
Most W-Fi routers will contain a built-in network firewall which will protect broadband connections and prevent any network attacks from intruders. They will also have an option to be disabled so it is important to check that your home router’s firewall is turned on to add another layer of protection to your home security.

8. Place the router in the centre of your home
Most homeowners don’t realise that the location of their router can have an impact on security. If your router is positioned near a door or window it increases the chance of your wi-fi signal being intercepted by someone with malicious intent. To improve the security of your home Wi-Fi, it is best to place your Wi-Fi router as close to the centre of your home as possible and this will reduce the chance of hackers connecting through to your network.

9. Enable MAC Address Filtering
Most broadband routers will have a unique identifier called the physical address or Media Access Control (MAC) address. The aim of this address is to improve security by limiting the number of devices that can hook up to the home network. Home owners have the option to type in the MAC addresses of all devices in the home and this restricts the network to only allow connections from these approved addresses. This provides another layer of security that helps keep the hackers at bay.

10. Disable Remote Administration
Another way hackers can gain entry to a home network connection is through the remote administration feature on a router. Remote administration allows anyone close enough to your home to view or change your Wi-Fi settings. If have no need to remotely connect to your Wi-Fi router it’s best to turn this feature off. This can be done easily by going into the administration section of the Wi- settings and clicking on the disable button.

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