Sometimes the best thing to say about a wireless router in your house is that once it's set it, you forget it exists.
As long as the devices that need the Wi-Fi connection can get on and function, that's all that matters, right? Maybe, but we also live in the age of leaks. Setting up a home Wi-Fi router used to be a complicated task that was typically confusing and difficult for the average computer user.
Responding to that issue, ISPs and router manufacturers implemented some buttons and defaults that made connecting about as easy as possible — and in the security business, we know e-a-s-y spells trouble. Securing a wireless network is very important because if you don't, your neighbors can not only borrow your Internet connection, but also access your files and check up on what you're doing. Protect your home Wi-Fi router from intruders with these seven tips:
1. Avoid EZ setup. Some Wi-Fi routers promise an essentially brainless setup — just press the button to get connected. But when you don’t know your own credentials, you’re not the master of your domain.
2. Rename the Wi-Fi router’s network. Strictly speaking, this step doesn’t make your network more secure, but it makes the entire network situation better. When you sign in or help a guest sign in, you won’t have to remember whether you’re NETGEAR58843 or Linksys-u8i9o. Instead, you can choose a name that’s easy to remember — or fun, or funny.
3. Change the Wi-Fi router login credentials. Wi-Fi router manufacturers often reuse default admin names and passwords. You can look them up on the Internet — for example, some manufacturers, depending on the model, use either admin or (blank) for the admin name, and either admin or (blank) for the password. These aren’t state secrets. But your real admin name and password should be super-secret, so choose new ones.
4. Secure with a reliable encryption protocol and strong password. This is the most important part. In step 3, we changed the Wi-Fi router login, which secures the router’s options. Now you’re going to choose a network password. That’s what you type in to your PC, Mac, smartphone, tablet, or other connected device to give it Wi-Fi Internet access. You don’t want your neighbors or passing strangers to be able to hop onto your Wi-Fi. I personally advise choosing WPA2 Personal encryption for the password. You can also use a passphrase, which may be easier to remember than a complex password, but it should also be harder to crack.
5. Secure all of your Wi-Fi networks. I personally do not have a guest network because my regular network is locked down pretty tight. But if your router supports a guest network and you want to create one, go for it. Call it something like “MyAwesomeNetwork – GUEST,” and give it a strong password and encryption as well. Then you don’t have to give anyone else your private network password.
6. Secure all devices. Whether you’re using a computer, a tablet, a smartphone, a Kindle, or any other connected device, secure it with a strong password. Don’t give anyone your password. Use security software on every device — and always keep all the software up to date.