Many home network users change the name of their networks, add a simple password and believe themselves invulnerable to attack. While this isn’t necessarily true — experienced hackers can bypass these rudimentary security measures with ease — users who took these steps were once able to stay safe simply because they didn’t offer much to enterprising hackers. Businesses contain much higher quantities of juicy data and often present much lower obstacles to success, so home networks that offered any resistance were ignored in favor of more sumptuous targets.
However, that is no longer the case. Businesses are arming themselves with defenses that home users can only dream of, meaning only the best and brightest hackers stand a chance at infiltrating business networks. The hoard of middling hackers are beginning to turn their attention back to regular users and their embarrassingly vulnerable networks and devices.
The sooner you accept that your network is at risk, the better. Here are a few ways your home network isn’t secure — and how to change it to keep yourself safe.
Your Router Is Identical to Other Routers
Your router is the link between your wireless devices and the internet; it is the device that forwards information packets to and from a wired modem, so if your router is insecure, your entire network is insecure.
Unfortunately, most households take the router out of the package, connect it to the modem and start using it without altering any of its features. Routers come with default names and passwords, which you use to connect to the internet through your device. Typically, the network name includes the router’s make or model, which makes it easy for those who see the router to hack in. Worse, if you haven’t changed the default password, pretty much anyone can find the code online, thanks to manufacturers’ published lists. In fact, there is an autonomous malware that tests known router passwords, giving hackers easy access to such networks.
As much as you can, you should make your router unique. You should go into your router’s settings to change the name and password to something you will remember but won’t identify the make or model of your router. You might also supplement your router with network security tools installed on your devices.
Your Router Is Easy to Find
A largely unknown problem with router security is that you probably place your router close to where your cable comes into your home from the outside. Often, modems and routers are located in family rooms, near either the front or the back of your home.
On one hand, this makes connection to the internet easier for all devices; larger electronics like TVs and gaming consoles in the family room can have a fast wired connection, and the laptops and smartphones that move around your house can use wireless. On the other hand, keeping your router so close to the outside of your home makes it easy for hackers to find and attack.
If you can walk by your home from the sidewalk or alley and find your router with a mobile device, your router is insecure. This is doubly true if your router has an identifiable name, like your address, apartment number or surname, or if your network isn’t protected by a password or any type of encryption.
A safer strategy is to move your router closer to the center of your home, where its signal is unlikely to reach outside. You might even raise the router close to the ceiling, so the network will reach every room but won’t escape your home’s walls.
You Only Have One Network
Long gone are the days when your only connected devices were computers and smartphones. Roughly half of U.S. homes have at least a smart speaker; most have two or three smart devices, like smart doorbells, thermostats and kitchen appliances.
While smart tools are exceedingly convenient, offering remarkable control over the home environment, they are also notably insecure with gaping vulnerabilities that allow hackers to waltz in and command a network with virtually no effort.
You should be updating your smart tools as soon as you take them out of the box and on a regular schedule thereafter, but updates aren’t the only security precaution you need to take. A much better solution for immediate security and protection into the future is to create a separate Wi-Fi network for your smart home, so your smart devices are almost entirely separated from data devices like your computers and phones.
Regular consumers are, once again, attracting the attention of hackers, and most are woefully unprepared for any kind of attack. By taking even basic steps to protect your home network, you can fend off the vast majority of attacks and avoid losing your devices and data.