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

Protect your home network by changing the password regularly

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Anyone who uses the internet regularly has had to cope with managing many different passwords. Compared to the passwords you use for social network accounts and email, the password of your Wi-Fi home network may tend to be an afterthought, but it shouldn't 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 in to the router, which gives them complete access to the device's features and information about any devices that are connected.

Manufacturers set up all 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.

Risks of Not Changing Default Network Passwords

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 curious individual who comes 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, it extends outside a home into the street and the homes of neighbors. Professional thieves may be unlikely to visit your neighborhood just to hijack a home network, but curious children living next door might give it a try.

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 you first install the unit. You’ll need to log into the router’s console with its current password, choose a good new password value, and find the location inside the console screens to configure the new value. Change 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 is difficult for others to guess and hasn't been used recently.

To maintain home network security for the long-term, change the 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. It's also a good practice for managing passwords on the internet generally.

It's relatively easy for a person to forget a router's password because it is used infrequently. Write down the router's new password and keep the note in a safe place.

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