In the last two years, the problem of cybersecurity in the home has become more urgent.
There are millions of dollars of both private and company money at stake, as well as your job and your livelihood. The FBI reported a 300 percent increase in cybercrime at the onset of the pandemic.
Anyone who gets access into your Wi-Fi system may be able to:
- Place malware on your computer that will give them access to bank accounts and private financial details.
- Get access to your employer’s financial details and company secrets.
- Use your computer to commit crimes in your name.
- Steal your data or disable your computer for the purpose of extortion.
- Use your devices as a conduit for cyber-vandalism such as distributed denial of service (DDoS).
You don’t have to follow all of the tips in this article, but take as many of the precautions as you possibly can.
9 steps you can take to keep your home network safe
#1. Limit your Wi-Fi availability
Keep your connection switched off when you’re not at home or when you’re asleep. Also, if you have remote Wi-Fi, disable it unless you really need it. It allows access to your home connection from anywhere that has internet access.
Unfortunately, remote Wi-Fi also greatly increases the opportunities for hackers to gain access to your network. You can go to the admin interface on your Wi-Fi system and use the disable function for remote access.
#2. Use a virtual private network
A VPN is one of the primary defenses against hacking, cyberattacks, and data theft. It will encrypt all the data in your communications so that even your internet service provider can’t read it.
Consider a Surfshark download to protect and secure your data. A VPN can be used on all your devices and has other advantages, such as giving access to any sites that are blocked in your country.
#3. Secure your router
Your router comes with a service set identifier (SSID), placed there by the manufacturer. This is what anyone within range of your network will see on their screen when they check for nearby Wi-Fi.
Pick a name that gives nothing away about you or your internet connection. The default name is usually that of the router manufacturer. This is worth changing, as it may give people a clue as to what hacking methods to use on it.
#4. Make a strong password
Then there’s the password or passphrase, which you need when you want to give any of your devices access to your Wi-Fi for the first time. The default password is set by the router manufacturer, and you can’t be sure how safe it is.
Remove it and make up your own. As with all passwords and codes, don’t include anything that has an obvious connection to you, such as your name or date of birth.
#5. Keep your router updated
Like all other devices, routers are subject to periodical updates in their firmware, but in many cases this doesn’t happen automatically. You need to check it regularly. If the security features aren’t kept up to date, it can be vulnerable to hacking, giving unauthorized access to all your devices.
You need to find the router’s IP address, which is usually written on a sticker on the device. You can then access the settings for updates by typing this address into your browser.
#6. Use MAC address filtering
Most routers have a media access control system. You have the option of entering the MAC addresses of all the devices in your home and allowing it to connect only to these. This provides you with a layer of protection from unauthorized access by anyone not approved by you.
You can find a computer’s MAC address using the command prompt. Type cmd into the search bar. When the prompt appears, type ipconfig /all and press Enter. You can allow or block any MAC address you choose on your router.
#7. Create a separate network for guests
You have a security problem if you frequently have visitors to your home who need to use your Wi-Fi. However, most routers allow you to have separate systems. These can allow access to your Wi-Fi through another network that hides your devices and data.
You do this by creating a separate guest SSID and Wi-Fi password for them. First you need to find the router’s IP address on the sticker attached to it. Then log in to the device on your browser and change the settings.
#8. Use a firewall
Most wireless routers have a built-in firewall, but this often has to be activated by the user. It’s another layer of protection against illegitimate access to your network. It will block any unauthorized traffic that enters or leaves the network without your consent.
You need to log in to the device’s advanced settings and enable the firewall by entering your IP address. As it may slow down your internet speeds slightly, you can switch it off when you need a faster connection.
#9. Limit the range of your Wi-Fi
For anyone to access your system, they need to be within range. Unfortunately, you can’t make the signal stop exactly at the walls of your house. But you may be unnecessarily extending it.
You can make it less likely that anyone outside your property can pick up a signal from your network. If you have a dual-band router, the 2.4GHz band will extend farther than the 5GHz one, often being detectable from beyond your home. Use the 5GHz band if this is adequate for your house.
Some other precautions you can take
No matter how good your technology is, you need to know how to stay safe online. Most cybercrimes are committed with the unwitting cooperation of the victim.
Be careful with email
For careless or naive people, their email accounts are the gateway to their money and data for cybercriminals. Seventy-five percent of all malware is sent this way.
- Treat all mail from unknown or doubtful sources as dangerous. Make it a matter of policy to check the source of any mail about banking or finance.
- Make sure to not click on any links in these messages. You may end up placing malware on your computer that will provide access to your financial details for criminals.
- In case you get a message claiming to be from your bank or other financial institution, don’t use the reply button. Find the contact information elsewhere and get in touch that way.
- Beware of emails with alarming news, or urging you to take instant action, e.g. claiming your bank account is in danger. This is a common trick of scammers to panic people into dropping their guard.
- Never reveal your password, PIN, or one-time security code to anyone online. Genuine banks or financial staff never request this information over the internet.
You need to keep in mind that this type of fraud is only made possible by the victim. Don’t make it easy for the thieves.
Beware of impersonation
To the unwary internet user, a criminal can pretend to be almost anybody. Millions are stolen by thieves who use fake web pages claiming to be the sites of world-famous companies. The brands most often impersonated are:
- Microsoft – 45%
- DHL —26%
- Amazon —11%
- Best Buy — 4%
- Google — 3%
Check the address of any message you receive and go to the company website to see if it matches. Scammers will often make up addresses that look somewhat like the real thing, e.g. microsoft-service.com.
Protecting your home network requires a combination of technology and constant vigilance. Don’t let the fear of cybercrime restrict your financial activity online, or discourage you from working from home.
Hackers and thieves depend on the complacency or ignorance of their victims. By taking the right precautions against them, you reduce the risk of becoming a victim to a negligible level.