Just about everyone these days has a home network with many devices connected 24/7 to the internet. Hackers have been ramping up their game since COVID-19 started, and they are finding new ways every day of breaking into your home network to extort money, commit fraud or use your system for other crimes.
Your Home Network is Not Just Your Computer
Although when you think of a home network, you think of your PC, Mac, smartphones, and maybe tablets. But you are forgetting that your smart TV, your remotes, your coffee maker, and Alexa devices are also connected to the internet. Any one of these devices can pose a vulnerability and a way for a hacker to get in.
Keeping your home network safe may not have been a priority before, but with hackers using ransomware and double extortion (release of your private information on the dark web), you need to make securing your home network priority number one.
Steps to Secure Your Home Network
First, ensure that every device connected to your home network is updated with the latest firmware, security patches, and operating system. For IoT devices, check with the manufacturer often to see if there are any updates you should download and apply.
Another quick mention is to install good antivirus/anti-malware software on all the devices you can and run frequent scans.
Always sign up for two-factor or multi-factor authentication when you set up accounts for things like Ring doorbell, smart door locks, and other IoT devices.
How to Secure Your Router and Firewall?
One way hackers break into your home network is through insecure or misconfigured settings in your router or firewall. Many people use the router/modem supplied with their ISP. To better secure your router/modem, perform the following steps.
Change the default name of your router. This name will become the name for your wireless network. The manufacturer will set a default for you to use called the service set identifier" (SSID). Change it to something unique. Do not put your name in it and nothing that identities you. Hackers use the default gateway identifier to look for known bugs as a way to hack in.
Do not leave the preset password at the default. Log into your router's interface (go to a web browser and enter the router's IP address) and then log in using the username/password they supplied you with. Change the password to a long, strong password that someone could not guess.
Be sure to change your wireless security level to the maximum available, which is currently WPA2 or WPA3. Set a very long, strong password for Wi-Fi connections. The best is a passphrase using a combination of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols.
Turn on the device firewall and block all incoming traffic from unknown connections.
Set up rules and open ports only for specific purposes.
Use routing to allow incoming connections to only specific devices.
Go through all the settings on your router and select the most aggressive in terms of security. You can always change them later if they do not work for you.
Take Protection Steps Further
To thwart bad actors even further, you need to take things a step beyond the normal security settings. Some tips for even better security are:
Install a VPN on your router to mask your IP, keep your online activities private, and protect your entire home network as well as IoT devices.
When you travel, disconnect or turn off your Wi-Fi network. Not only will you protect your hardware in the event of a power surge due to a storm, but you will also prevent hackers from gaining access while you are away.
Only log onto financial accounts using a single "clean" machine that does not perform any other function or is used by anyone but you.
Move your network router to the center of your house, if possible. Not only will your Wi-Fi extend throughout your living space, but it will be less detectable to intruders outside your home.
Change your default IP address that was set by the manufacturer.
Turn off Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) functionality, which automatically assigns IP addresses throughout your network. You can set each one yourself easily.
Turn off remote access unless you absolutely need to use it. Most people would never need to access their router remotely.
Frequently update your router's firmware and check for updates monthly.
Install network monitoring software to detect intrusions and other issues. The newest modems from Xfinity come equipped with a phone app that alerts users when a new device is attached to the network and blocks unwanted connections from the outside.
Turn off-network devices when they are unused. Close any open loopholes that a hacker could use to get into your home network and wreak havoc.