Why You Should Change the Default Password on a Wi-Fi Network

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Anyone who uses the Internet regularly has had to cope with managing many different passwords. Compared to the passwords we use for social network accounts and email, the passwords of our Wi-Fi home networks tend to be an afterthought, but they should not be neglected.

What is a Wi-Fi Network Password?

Wireless broadband routers allow administrators to manage their home network through a special account.

Anyone who knows this account's username and password can log into the router, giving them complete access to the device's features and information about any devices connected.

Manufacturers set up all of their new routers with the same default username and password. The username is often simply the word "admin" or "administrator." The password is typically empty (blank), the words "admin," "public," or "password," or some other simple word choice.

The Risks of Not Changing Default Passwords of Wi-Fi Networks

The default usernames and passwords for popular models of wireless network gear are well-known to hackers and often posted on the Internet. If the default password isn't changed, any attacker (or just curious individual) who gets within signal range of the router can log into it. Once inside, they can change the password to whatever they choose and shut down the router, effectively hijacking the network.

The signal reach of routers is limited but in many cases extends outside a home into the street and also the homes of neighbors. Professional thieves may be unlikely to visit our neighborhoods just to hijack home networks, but curious children living next door might.

Best Practices for Managing Wi-Fi Network Passwords

To improve the security of your Wi-Fi network, even if only slightly, change the administrative password on your router immediately when first installing the unit.

 Seriously consider changing the administrative username also if the router supports it. (Many models do not.)

Changing the default password to a weak one like "123456" does not help. Choose a strong password that will be difficult for others to guess and hasn't been used recently.

To maintain home network security for the long term, continue changing this administrative password periodically. Many experts recommend changing Wi-Fi passwords every 30 to 90 days. Planning password changes on a set schedule helps make it a routine practice (and it's also good practice for managing passwords on the Internet generally).

It's relatively easy for a person to forget their router's password because they do not log into it regularly. Write down the router's new password  (and keep the note in a safe place) if necessary. For more, see: Password Management for Home Network Routers.

More: Change the Default Password on a Network Router - Step by Step