Today, wireless technology makes it easier than ever to stay connected to the Internet and your office or home computers wherever you are. However, this convenience makes it easy for hackers to take advantage of unsecured networks and steal information from the devices that connect to them, so it’s important to take steps to protect your network from these attacks whenever possible. Keep reading to learn more about how you can secure your wireless network from potential hackers using the following seven tips.
If you’re like most business professionals, you probably use wireless technology regularly without giving it much thought. However, wireless technology has some security vulnerabilities that can leave your private information at risk if you’re not careful to protect yourself and your business data. Here are seven tips for protecting your wireless network from hackers and other malicious intruders
What is wireless technology?
You’ve probably used a wireless network or device before, but in case you’re not sure exactly what that is, it works much like a cell phone. Instead of using wires (like old-fashioned telephones), you communicate wirelessly with your other devices through radio waves. This technology has a number of benefits over traditional wiring. It allows users to connect to high-speed internet and share files or other information with ease—without having an unsightly mess of cables all over their homes or offices. But it also comes with risks: security flaws can leave wireless networks vulnerable to intrusion from hackers who are looking for information they can use for malicious purposes.
1) Change the router password
Before you do anything else, it’s important that you change your router’s default admin password. This is a basic security step, but one that many people skip. If you haven’t already changed your router password, it’s time to update your network security by doing so. (If you’re unsure of how or where to change your router’s settings and/or login information, consult your internet service provider.)
For added protection, consider using a random string of numbers, letters, and symbols as your new password—that way, if someone were to guess it by chance they wouldn’t be able to access your network without changing it first. It may seem like overkill now, but trust us: It’ll come in handy when you least expect it. And once you’ve updated your password(s), make sure all other devices on your home network are secure as well.
2) Enroll in a VPN service
If you’re worried about outside hackers getting into your computer, a virtual private network (VPN) is an option. You can use a VPN for free, or you can pay for a premium VPN service. A VPN works by encrypting all of your Internet traffic and routing it through an intermediary server in another location, ensuring that no one else can see your traffic.
If you’re connecting through your work computer, then using a VPN might be more secure than browsing over your wireless network at home (or anyone else who might have access to that network). Just make sure that if you subscribe to a paid service, they keep good records and take care not to store any identifiable data on their servers.
3) Use IP filtering
You should consider disabling your router’s DHCP server, and then adding a static IP address in its place. Doing so means that any outside computer trying to connect will have an IP address already assigned. This makes it harder for a hacker to gain access since you’ve locked them out at their source (i.e., they can’t hack what they can’t see).
You could also use MAC filtering, but it isn’t as secure as IP filtering. The one downside of using IP filtering is that if you want to let friends connect to your network—or if you want others to be able to access certain computers on your network—you’ll need to manually configure each computer with an IP address. It may seem like extra work now, but it’s much easier than dealing with a hacked wireless network later on.
4) Disable remote management services
If you have a network-administration tool, such as Cisco’s Unified Communications Manager (CallManager), Symantec’s pcAnywhere, or Microsoft’s Systems Management Server (SMS), disable its remote management services. Hackers can exploit these tools by gaining access to a nonadministrative user account and then remotely logging in through these services, giving them access to all your systems. This is particularly true of Cisco’s CallManager; hackers often gain access to routers by exploiting their vulnerability.
To protect yourself, change default passwords on your administration software, remove unnecessary protocols and applications, restrict administrative accounts with strong passwords, monitor system logs for suspicious activity, restrict physical access to servers and routers (and other networking equipment), and use secure methods of communication between administrative computers and devices on your network.
5) Disconnect from the internet if you don’t need it
The easiest way to prevent hackers from accessing your wireless network is to never connect in the first place. If you’re away on vacation, turn off your Wi-Fi, and don’t turn it back on until you get home. If you’re not using a public network, why would you even want it? Don’t open ports or leave ports open that aren’t necessary: Unless someone tells you otherwise, close all ports that aren’t being used for online gaming or file sharing. It’s possible that those open ports are letting hackers access your system through security holes that don’t always have anything to do with your password.
Make sure to change your default passwords often: Every router has a default username and password that lets anyone log into it without having to know what they actually are. Change these passwords immediately if you can’t remember them, but if you can remember them, change them anyway! It only takes a few minutes, so there’s no reason not to protect yourself.
Use WPA2 encryption if possible: If your router supports WPA2 encryption (and most of them do), use it at all times. Older versions of encryption can be easily hacked by anyone who knows how; keep yourself safe by upgrading!
6) Use a firewall
The simplest way to protect yourself when you’re connected to an unsecured wireless network is to enable a firewall on your computer. Firewalls can prevent access by malicious software or hackers, and they won’t compromise your connection speeds.
If you don’t want to install a firewall on your computer, turn on Wi-Fi security settings in order to make sure that unauthorized users aren’t able to connect. This setting will require you to enter a password whenever someone tries to join your network. You should also consider changing your default SSID (the name of your wireless network) so that it isn’t easily guessed.
7) Update software
As a general rule, when you’re online, your devices are vulnerable. Often, hackers know how long it takes major companies like Microsoft and Apple to patch vulnerabilities—and they take advantage of that lag time. The best way to prevent outside hacking is by making sure you have all of your software updated on a regular basis.
This means keeping Windows and any other relevant programs up-to-date on all of your devices. Also, make sure your router is secure by checking for firmware updates. In addition, make sure your Wi-Fi password has decent security features (like not being based on an easy pattern). Lastly, keep an eye out for unprotected public Wi-Fi networks as these can often lead to hacker territory.
Why is it important to protect your Wi-Fi network?
Are you using a wireless router? Is your network password protected? If you’re not taking advantage of encryption, maybe it’s time to step it up. With most routers easily accessible and within range of prying eyes, they can be a gold mine for hackers looking for information.
In fact, according to one study by Bitdefender, over 30 percent of mobile devices on any given Wi-Fi network are infected with malware. Even if you aren’t in possession of sensitive information like credit card numbers or bank logins, having your computer infected by malware can wreak havoc on other aspects of your life (like downloading new apps). Make sure that you’re securing your Wi-Fi network with strong encryption!
What should be the security type for the wireless networks?
If you have a wireless network at home, it’s important to change your security type (the most common are WEP and WPA2) as frequently as possible. Most default security types can be broken in a matter of minutes—if not seconds—by even novice hackers.
Even if you aren’t worried about being hacked by someone who is trying to steal data or gain access to your system, there are still plenty of reasons why changing your security type is worthwhile: A hacker might break into a neighbor’s wireless network and use that connection to get onto yours. So make sure that all of your devices on your network use the same security type; using WPA2-PSK with AES encryption is generally considered one of the safest options available today.