Router Security: The 8 Best Tips for Protecting Your Home Network

Router settings you should update right away

When you've just had a new wireless router arrive, it's tempting to hook it up and not think any more about it. However, it's important to delve into the wireless router security settings and adjust them for the best protection. That way, you know your Wi-Fi and network is secure from any potential attacks or hacking attempts. 

There are plenty of different ways to keep your network secure, so we've rounded up some of the most important tips on how to secure wifi and how to keep your router secure and safe. 

Most router settings are accessed by using your web browser to go to the router IP address and logging in. If you haven't done this before, each router is roughly the same to access.

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Set Up a Secure Password

Router setup page demonstrating passwords and network name

Routers typically come with a default admin name and password. The admin name tends to be something very obvious like admin with some router manufacturers like NETGEAR using default standard passwords like password to make set up easier. Other manufacturers may offer individual passwords written on the underside of the router.

It's sensible to change both default settings as soon as possible. Steering away from the default administrator name makes a hacker's job harder and, sometimes, default password lists can be leaked online. Change that default password to a something that's a strong password. Follow guidelines for forming a strong password and stick to it.

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Change Your Network Name/SSID

The SSID or name on your network router is a way in which it identifies itself so you know what you're looking for when connecting to a new network. It's useful to change the name of your network router of it as soon as you get your router for a few different reasons.

For one thing, it's easier for you to recognize which is your router and which is your neighbor's. For another, many router manufacturers use a standarized list of names so a hacker can often learn a lot about your router just from the SSID name it's sending out to everyone.

Changing the name cuts back on this risk, plus it shows the hacker that you know how to secure your network, leaving them liable to move onto find an easier target.

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Hide Your Network

While changing your SSID/network name, also hide it from public view. Hackers can't join a network that they don't even know exists. All wireless routers have a setting that enables you to place your router into 'stealth mode'. Once you've set up all your devices on the network, choose to 'hide' the router in settings so that no one can see it until you switch it back on. 

If you regularly have new devices that need to be connected to your wireless router, this can be inconvenient, but it's a useful security measure.

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Enable The Firewall

Router settings with firewall settings highlighted

Most wireless routers have a built-in firewall that can be used to help keep hackers out of your network. They often need enabling first though. This is usually a fairly simple process of diving into your router settings, looking for a section called Firewall and ticking a box next to it. It can make a huge difference to the safety of your data though.

If your router also has DDoS protection, enable that for extra security.

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Turn on Wireless Network Encryption

Router settings highlighting encryption types

Encryption is one of the key ways in which you can protect and secure your wireless router. Adding a password is only useful providing you have the right encryption type enabled on your device. Most routers have multiple forms of encryption available to them, which can seem baffling to the ordinary user.

The key here is to, generally, use the newest form of encryption—WPA2. It's not hard to switch to on your router providing you know how. Usually, the setting is a matter of finding encryption settings and clicking on the WPA2 box next to it. 

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Update Your Router Software

Like any piece of software or hardware, a wireless router needs to be updated regularly. It contains a form of software that's embedded within its hardware, known as firmware. To get the best settings and the strongest security, you need to update it every once in a while. 

Most routers simply require you to log in then seek out the Update option on their settings screen to do so. Don't expect to be able to use the router while it's updating.

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Enable MAC Address Filtering

Many routers offer a feature called MAC address filtering. Simply put, it's like an invite list. If the device isn't listed on there, the router won't allow it to use the network. If you know your router is only ever going to use the same handful of devices, you can add specific devices and their MAC address to the list, ensuring nothing else is going to be able to access your network. 

It's a slightly trickier thing to set up than other settings, as you need to do it on an individual basis, but, if you're really worried about security and safety, it's a generally highly effective method.

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Disable Remote Administration

The majority of routers are set up so that you can access them over Wi-Fi. It's a convenience feature, saving you the hassle of connecting via an Ethernet cable but it means hackers can also connect to your router (or at least try to). Switch off the admin via wireless feature and you'll only be able to access the router settings by plugging it in directly to your laptop or desktop computer. 

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