Have you ever wondered how your device connects to Wi-Fi? In a nutshell, a device that is always connected to the internet, called router, broadcasts invisible waves to connect the rest of your devices to the web. It works the same, whether it’s a company, coffee shop or even a public park.
This is why, if you understand a few key security concepts regarding wireless networks, you will be able to protect yourself against any threat.
What is happening when you connect to an open Wi-Fi?
You should never do this! Anybody in proximity can see every site you visit, and in some cases even what you do on them. Furthermore, any confidential data can be stolen if you access your business accounts. Also, having an open Wi-Fi at home would allow all your neighbors to use your internet.
How to access my router’s settings?
Access the router’s IP address using a browser and log in with the default credentials. You can find all of those in the manual or on the internet searching the model of your device. Follow the example below, but change the address, username and password with the proper ones.
Follow the next steps to secure your router:
- Change the default credentials and make sure you don’t forget them. All routers come with predefined usernames and passwords that are usually from this list: admin, password, root. As you can see, those are very easy to guess by a hacker or even an automated network attack.
- Make sure that all options from the Security and Firewall tabs are activated.
- Deactivate UPnP. If you want to use this function, keep it activated only when you need it.
How to update the router?
Unfortunately, only a few devices can update automatically. In most cases you must access the administrative panel and do the update. It’s very easy, but the process is different form one device to another so, once again, you need to search in the manual or on the internet.
How to secure my Wi-Fi network?
- Choose a password with more than 8 characters that contains at least a number, a symbol and an uppercase letter. This password is going to be used to allow access to the network only to those who know it.
- Make sure the authentication is done using WPA2, or at least WPA if you have an older device, and use AES for encryption. If there are any compatibility issues use AES+TKIP.
- Disable WPS because it’s insecure and you probably don’t use it.
- The name of the wireless network might also be a liability. It’s called SSID and it shouldn’t contain any personal information about you, like name, nickname or address. Also make sure it is not the model of the router and it’s at least 8 characters long.
- Also, disable SSID Broadcast to make your Wi-Fi invisible for anybody that doesn’t know the network name.
- One last, but very important, step is using Mac Filtering to make sure only the devices you approve can connect. Most routers will show you a list of connected devices which you can put on the blacklist or on the whitelist.
Why I don’t find many settings that are mentioned above?
Cheap routers usually lack features, don’t receive updates and are quite insecure. The same applies for old devices that aren’t supported by manufacturers anymore. In both cases, it’s time to buy a new router from a reputable company, preferably not the cheapest around.
Bonus. If you are eager to fully customize your router, on some models you can install a custom firmware. With this you will gain a lot of flexibility and many new options to improve performance, experience and security. Search DD-WRT for more information.