6 Steps to Secure Your Router Against Cyberattacks
Your personal Wi-Fi network is a prime target for hackers. To protect yours and your clients’ private information, beef up your cybersecurity at home. Here’s how.
by Burton Kelso
Securing your home and office wireless network is essential, especially for real estate pros, who handle sensitive client information every day. The last thing you want is a stranger connecting to your wireless router and snooping through private data. It’s important to update your router—which acts as a firewall, protecting you from the many digital threats lurking online—so it’s performing at its best. Change these basic settings to improve your home network’s security.
- Change your router’s login credentials.Most routers have administrative credentials that enable you to change your router’s settings based on whether you’re using a public or private network. These settings include turning the firewall on and off, monitoring who’s connected to your wireless network, and updating the firmware for your router. For most brands, you can Google the default username and password. So, if you never change the administrative settings for your router, anyone connected to your wireless network can gain access and change the settings. It’s OK to continue using the default username, but you really need to change the password.
- Change the network name and password.Most brands of routers come with a default wireless network or SSID and password. Sometimes, this information is printed on a sticker attached to the router. Default router settings can easily be found on the internet—just look up yours! Changing these settings differs by the router, but you’ll often find this function under “wireless settings,” “wireless security,” or something similar. Once you make changes to your wireless network name and password, you’ll have to reconnect all of your wireless devices.
- Use strong network encryption.Most routers already have encryption methods set up out of the box, but it’s always a good idea to login to your router settings to make sure it’s properly secured. Looking at your wireless security settings, you will see options such as:
- None. This setting means you want your home or office network to be publicly accessible—like your local coffee shop’s. Don’t choose this option if you’re exchanging sensitive information.
- WEP. Wired Equivalent Privacy is outdated technology and provides little security, so you shouldn’t use it.
- WPA. Wi-Fi Protected Access is the current security method used to protect routers. It comes in three flavors: WPA, WPA2, and WPA3—which became available in 2018 but isn’t available on all devices.
- Disable the display of your wireless network name.If you want to keep your wireless network secure from prying eyes, it’s best to simply disable the broadcasting of your Wi-Fi network name or the SSID. If you change your default wireless name and make it invisible to other wireless users in the area, you’ll create the ultimate protection from hackers. To make this happen, go into the settings and choose the option to turn off SSID.
- Keep your router firmware updated. Firmware is the software that controls your router, and just like your computer, smartphone, and tablets, your router needs to be updated from time to time. Router manufacturers occasionally release updates to fix security holes, and you need to download them. Your router should have a “firmware update” option in the main menu, or you might have to visit a separate page to download the latest version and manually upload it.
- Set up a guest network. If you have frequent guests in your home or office and you want them to use your Wi-Fi, it’s not a bad idea to set up a guest network that will give them access to the internet while keeping your personal network private and secure. Not all routers have the option to set up a guest network. If yours does, you just need to go into the router’s settings and select the option to set up a guest network.
There’s no way for your network to be 100% bulletproof, but these common-sense tips will protect you against the usual methods cybercriminals use to get into your network.
Burton Kelso is the owner and chief technology expert at Integral, an onsite and remote computer and laptop repair service company for consumers and businesses.