Is your home network safe from hackers? Chances are, it’s not. Especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, your data is even more vulnerable than ever. If you haven’t taken the right steps to secure your home network, hackers could easily gain control of your router or gateway, and/or the devices connected to it.
The good news is that it isn’t difficult or even very time-consuming to secure your home network. You can change your router’s login credentials, create a separate network for your insecure IoT devices, and invest in a home security station to monitor traffic on your network, and more. Let’s take a look at some of the things you can do to protect yourself.
1) Lock Down Your Router
Have you changed the default login credentials for your router or gateway? Do you even know how to navigate to your router’s admin dashboard?
It’s pretty easy — just type your router’s IP address into your web browser, and you’ll get a login page for your router’s admin dashboard. From here, you can configure your network’s security settings and change your router’s admin password.
But wait — do you even know what your password and username for your router’s admin dashboard even are? If you’ve purchased a new router or gateway, that information will be available in the user manual or other paperwork that came with the device. But if you want to adjust the settings on an older device, you can easily look up the username and password online by simply googling the brand name and model number of the router along with the words “username” and “password”. The info is that easy to find — and that’s why you should change your router admin password immediately, before hackers get to it first.
2) Segregate IoT Devices
The Internet of Things (IoT) allows all kinds of smart home devices to offer connectivity functions. IoT devices include smart security cameras, smart speakers, smart baby monitors, smart robot vacuums, smart refrigerators — anything that’s “smart” and connects to the internet, but isn’t a laptop, smartphone, tablet, or computer, is an IoT device.
And these devices have pretty serious security flaws baked right in. Most don’t come with antivirus or other security software, and the majority don’t even have sufficiently robust computing power to run such a program. Nor do many manufacturers bother to issue security updates patching known flaws on IoT devices, like they do with computers and smartphones. Hackers can easily take control of these devices, and from there, they can access other devices on your network — which is why you should protect yourself by keeping your IoT devices on a separate network that never connects to your smartphones, tablets, or computers. That way, if hackers take over one or more of your IoT devices, they at least won’t be able to get at your sensitive data.
3) Use a Home Security Station
In a perfect world, everyone in your home would be savvy enough about hackers and scams that you wouldn’t need a dedicated device to monitor traffic on your network and protect you from malware and viruses. But keeping up with emerging cyber threats can be a full-time job, and even when you’re knowledgeable about social engineering attacks and phishing scams, you can still fall for a dodgy email in a moment of emotional distress, grogginess, or inattention. And, of course, everyone in your household — and their friends who might come over and use your network — won’t have the same level of security awareness. In any network, human users are the weakest link.
A home network security station removes the capacity for human error from the equation. You can install a home network security station, and it will monitor traffic on your network, including devices connected to it, as well as screening for malware and phishing scams, offering parental controls, and more. It offers a much-needed additional layer of security for your network, as well as enhanced features for monitoring who’s using your network and apps, what for, and for how long.
4) Educate Yourself about Web Scams and Safety
Not every network you connect to will be as protected as your home network, and even on a secure network, phishing emails and malware can sometimes slip through the cracks. Hackers are constantly improving their techniques, and cyber security professionals often struggle to keep up. You may not be able to protect yourself from every zero-day threat, but by educating yourself about how phishing scams and social engineering work, and keeping up-to-date on the new malware attacks that are going around, you can protect yourself from even those sophisticated threats that slip through your layers of automated protection.
5) Use a Guest Network
Do you have guests who come over and connect to your network? Do you know where they — or, more precisely, their devices — have been? Are their devices already compromised? You can’t take the risk — and if you have kids, you might find that they and their friends pose an unexpected security risk to your network. Mitigate the risks posed by friends, relatives, and neighbors connecting to your network. Set up a separate wifi network for guests, and keep your own devices off of it. It’s the same theory as with the IoT devices — if hackers gain access to a friend’s, neighbor’s, or relative’s device, your own devices will still be shielded, because they won’t be on the same network as your guests’ devices.
If you have to wonder whether your home network is safe from hackers, it probably isn’t. Take precautions now, and avoid regrets later.