Keeping your internet connection secure to your home is done by your internet provider, but when it comes to the router you control, how safe is it?
Your Wi-Fi router is your access to the online world. Without it, all your internet-enabled devices – your computer, phone, tablet, smart TV, IoT (internet of things) devices – are rendered useless. Being such an important piece of tech, you should make sure it’s adequately protected against unauthorized access and usage.
Update the Modem/Router Firmware
Your modem and/or router is vulnerable to the same type of attacks as your computer – it can be infected by malware that exploits vulnerabilities in its firmware code. Mirai, a malware that turns routers and IoT devices to DDoS (distributed denial of service) platforms, managed to infect over 100,000 ZyXEL routers in just three days. Once infected, the malware can easily gain access to all your other devices.
To make sure your device isn’t exposed, update your router firmware regularly. You can do that through the router's browser user interface or via the supplied app.
Make a Unique and Complex Router Password
Whenever you log in to your router to access settings, you have to enter a username and password. While you can’t change the username, which is most commonly “User” or “Admin,” you have the option to change the password, and you should do that.
The more complex your password is, the better. Use upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols, and never, ever use easy-to-guess things like your pet’s name or your birthdate. You can incorporate elements of this into your password, but make sure they are always scrambled in some way. Let’s say your pet’s name is Worf and your birthday is on March 18.
Instead of using:
Add additional letters, words, and symbols:
It basically says “NotT The WorF FroM Star Trek,” with some letters changed for numbers (LeetSpeak), and your birthday is incorporated into the whole thing. Oh, and some brackets too, just to be sure.
Your Wi-Fi network has several types of encryption options related to its password. Those usually include WEP (wired equivalent privacy), WPA (wi-fi protected access), and WPA2 – three different security protocols.
WEP is the most widely used protocol, but it’s by no means the best option. It uses 64-bit and 128-bit encryption, which was good enough back in the late ’90s and early 2000, but with the boost of computing power, it became very easy to crack it. WPA was the replacement that was more secure, thanks to 256-bit encryption, but it eventually showed the same issues as WEP.
Today, WPA2 is the standard, and it comes in conjunction with AES (advanced encryption standard). Always make sure that your ISP has routers with the latest security and encryption standards.
Wi-Fi Name and Password
As with the router login, you can secure access to your Wi-Fi network with a password too. Your Wi-Fi network will usually come with a default name (SSID) and password that are written or printed on the router. You should change both. Pick a Wi-Fi name that doesn’t hold any identifiable information, such as your surname, and pick a password unrelated to the Wi-Fi name. Make sure to create a complex password following the instructions above.
Consider MAC Address Filtering
Every internet-enabled device has its own MAC address. Call it a fingerprint of the device. You can limit access to your network by turning MAC filtering on as an additional feature. This way, even if a device manages to connect to your network, it won’t be able to use it if it’s not authenticated by its MAC address.
All your devices use your Wi-Fi as an access point to the web. To ensure that your Wi-Fi and all connected devices are safe, keep it secure with a strong password, the right encryption, and by changing the default password on your router.