Home Wi-Fi Security

Published On July 22, 2014 | By Tom Huskerson | News and Analysis, Security
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Courtesy of Stuart Miles

We are in the era of wireless connectivity. Most African-American homes have an Internet connection that comes through the cable or telephone wires. But once inside the signal goes to a wireless router that allows you to access the Internet. Your home Wi-Fi allows you to use your laptop, tablet or other device anywhere in the house. It works using radio signals. It’s called home Wi-Fi security for a reason. But you knew that. Now for what you don’t know.

Those radio signals can travel well beyond the walls of your home. You may not know it but someone could be piggybacking on your Wi-Fi signal. Yeah, your neighbor maybe getting free Internet because they can use your unsecured wi-fi signal.

But the situation could be worse. There maybe someone sitting in a car close by using your Wi-Fi. Maybe they are watching and recording everything you do online. If your home Wi-Fi is not secure then you could be asking for trouble. A wardriver or wardriving is a person who searches for Wi-Fi signals from a moving vehicle. These wardrivers actually map Wi-Fi networks and put the information on the Internet for all to see. Wigle.net offers a mapping service where you can find almost anybody’s home network and sometimes the devices on the network. They sometimes even designate which are open or unsecure. Is that your home Wi-Fi?

ESET Senior Research Fellow David Harley says that “for many users, a few simple steps could enhance security without having to grapple with complex software, or buy a new router. Taking a few simple precautions  would enhance security for quite a lot of home Wi-Fi users – though I don’t have any statistics to say how many networks are relatively insecure.”

Securing your home router is a top priority because that is your door or gateway to the Internet. If you leave it open anybody can walk right in. Let’s look at how to secure your home router.

1. Make sure your firmware is properly updated. Firmware is the code and data that makes routers work. You can compare them to a computer operating system. But the big difference that updates for firmware often have to be installed manually. To update your router you need to find the routers model number. Its usually on the router itself. Look on the back or bottom. Then visit the manufacturer’s website to see if there is a newer version. Download the update to your computer. Then access your router’s controls via its internal IP address.  This is usually standard for each manufacturer. You can also find it in your manual, or on the manufacturer’s site. You can also contact your Internet service provider for help. Most provide tech support for these things.

2.Change your passwords. Many routers come from the factory with default passwords. If you never changed it then its probably something easy like “123456” or “password.” You can also find just about any manufacturer’s default password on the Internet. Portforward.com lists hundreds of default passwords by manufacturer.

Harley says that users should always, “Change default router administrator usernames and passwords, and change the default SSID.” The SSID is the name of your network. This SSID is broadcasted beyond the walls of your home to anyone within Wi-Fi range. Not changing your default password is makes it easy for a hacker. From your SSID the hacker can learn the model of your router and whether you are using one supplied by your service provider. When you do change your network name make sure to use a name that does not identify you. Don’t use your address or your first initial and last name. Avoid any personally identifying information. 

It might be worth it to considering making your home Wi-Fi a “hidden network. This disables the broadcasting of the SSID’s name. It makes you less visible to attackers. To connect a new device, simply type in your network’s name on the gadget.

Harley warns when you perform a router software update your settings may revert back to factory settings. “After any update, check these settings have not reverted,” he says.

3. What is your router’s encryption setting?  If you find that your router is using the old WEP then you better update. New routers use the more secure WPA2 encryption standard. If you have had your router for more than two years then you need to check it. “Don’t use WEP encryption, if anyone still is,” Harley says. “If the router doesn’t allow anything else, time to change it. WPA2 is reasonably secure. Even if you had trouble connecting a tablet or other mobile devices to your network, leaving it “open” is always a bad idea. Harley says, “ If you’re not using encryption at all, fix it.”

4. Who’s using your network? As I said earlier; someone in your neighborhood could be using your Internet. Happens all the time and no can really say of if it is legal or not. But i’ts your Internet connection. You pay for it.

Your PC, tablet, game console, cable box,  DVD player even your phone has a unique identifying number known as a MAC address. Accessing your router’s settings permits you to choose which devices can connect to your network. This usually prevents any freeloading neighbor from logging in on your network.

You can add the MAC addresses of any devices in the home to the router’s authorized list. No other device will then be allowed on the network. You can find smartphone MAC addresses and other portable devices under their network settings. If not then check with the manufacturer.

Finally take some time to watch the online video provided by Welivesecurity.com that gives basic steps to secure your home router.

Now you know.

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About The Author

Tom Huskerson Bio Born in Richmond Virginia Tom Huskerson is a military veteran who settled in California after his discharge. He attended Santa Barbara City College where he began his writing career as a campus reporter. He worked as an intern news reporter for the Santa Barbara News-Press writing feature stories before moving on to San Francisco. At San Francisco State University Tom studied broadcast communications and began to focus on the Internet. He completed his graduate thesis on Internet advertising. Tom was the first student to ever focus on the Internet as a graduate student at San Francisco State University. After graduation he went to work for Zona Research in California’s Silicone Valley. As a research associate Tom supported senior analyst writing on the latest developments in the Internet industry. During the dot com boom Tom worked for several web businesses as a market researcher and analyst. As a writer and researcher Tom has authored various technical works including a training program for Charles Schwab security. Other projects included professional presentations on workplace violence and hiring security contractors. Tom has returned to focus on writing both fiction and non-fiction works and blogging for a travel website. He has published two books of short stories and completed two novels. Tom is the owner of Scribe of Life Literature and EbonyCandle. Most recently Tom has launched the blog African American Cyber Report. The blog is the result of his desire to inform the African American community of the dangers and benefits of the cyber age. In his blog Tom reports on information security, new and analysis, scams and hoaxes, legal happenings and various topics that arise from the age of information. Tom believes that technology is a necessary tool for black people and they should know what is happening. Tom writes believing that techno speak is for the professional and that valuable information can be communicated using plain language. As a result he has embraced the motto, Less Tech, More Knowledge.

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