The digital keys to your life likely reside inside a single device in your home-the ubiquitous wireless router.
When unsecured, wireless routers can let hackers access any device connected to your home network, including TVs, smartphones and computers. The bad guys can also take control of your devices to launch attacks on other networks, and even assume your identity based on information taken from your system.
This is a growing problem. The vast majority of U.S. households now have wireless internet access. All too often, internet users do a poor job of protecting their home networks. A common mistake is to rely on default logins and passwords issued by the router manufacturer, or use an easily guessed combination such as "admin/password."
In addition, many people also stick with the default broadcast SSID used by the router-what you see when you sign into your wireless account-which often identifies the make and model. That's an immediate tip off to hackers that the person who installed the network may not have taken the time to change anything else.
You may want to consider taking the following steps to help protect your network from bad actors:
- As soon as you set up your wireless network, immediately change the SSID, or name of the network. Leaving the default name lets hackers know what kind of system you're using. They likely also know the default login and password for the system as well, because that information is widely available.
- Given that, you should also change the default login and password. Use a strong password that's at least 12 characters long.
- Turn on the highest level of encryption for your router.
- Create a guest network for visitors to your home that uses a separate password.
- Make sure to update the router firmware regularly. The updates will fix known security vulnerabilities that could allow hackers to access your network.
- Regularly check to make sure you recognize all devices connected to your network, and block any you don't recognize.