5 Tips for Securing Your Wireless Network

It's time for a wireless tune-up

The Wireless Connection
The Wireless Connection
Introduction

Whether you have a home network or work on a business network in an office with multiple users, wireless network security is critical. An open network without security measures leaves vital data vulnerable to hacker attacks and other intrusions.

Whether you're an IT professional or a home user, here are five simple tips for securing your wireless network.

Hacking isn't a rare occurrence. According to a University of Maryland study, there is a hacker attack every 39 seconds, on average.

01
of 05

Turn on WPA2 Encryption on Your Wireless Router

Everything starts with a password
Melekhin / Getty

If you set up your Wi-Fi network several years ago and haven't changed any settings since then, you might be using the outdated Wireless Equivalent Privacy (WEP) encryption. WEP is easily infiltrated by even the most novice hacker and should be avoided.

Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) is the more common standard and is more hacker-resistant. However, there is WPA3 that takes WPA2 to the next level but is not as widespread in use. WPA3 is also backward compatible with WPA2.

Depending on how old your wireless router is, you may need to upgrade its firmware to add WPA2 or WPA3 support. If you can't upgrade the router firmware to add support for WPA2 or WPA3, invest in a new wireless router that supports at a bare minimum WPA2, or preferably WPA3 encryption.

Wireless routers often come with encryption turned off, and encryption must be turned on manually. Consult your wireless router's directions or visit the company's website.

02
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Don't Use a Default Wireless Network Name (SSID)

WRK54G Router Console - Wireless Setting SSID

A Service Set Identifier (SSID) is the name of your Wi-Fi network. A router comes with a standard, default ID assigned by the manufacturer. It's easy for hackers to identify the type of router, figure out the default SSID, and crack its encryption, so it's essential to change the SSID to something unique.

Also, don't publicize your SSID. All Wi-Fi routers let users protect their device's SSID via a stealth mode, so it's harder for hackers to find a network.

Avoid common SSID names at all costs. Password-cracking dictionaries, known as rainbow tables, include common SSIDs, making the hacker's job easier.

03
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Create a Strong Router Password

Netgear AC2400 router with a list of Default Netgear Router Passwords
Lifewire / Maddy Price

Like SSIDs, most routers come with a preset password that hackers could easily find out, so it's important to create a unique, strong password for your router.

Change the password to something long and complex, with at least 12 characters (16 preferred) and a mix of symbols, numbers, and upper-case and lower-case letters.

Longer and random passwords also help thwart rainbow table attacks, because such passwords are less likely to exist in a precomputed rainbow table.

04
of 05

Enable and Test Your Wireless Router's Firewall

MacBooks Behind the Corporate Firewall

Most wireless routers have a built-in firewall that can help keep hackers out of your network. Consider enabling and configuring the built-in firewall (see your router manufacturer's support site for details).

Periodically test your firewall from outside your network (for example, the internet). There are many free tools out there to help you accomplish this, such as ShieldsUP from the Gibson Research website.

05
of 05

Turn off Admin Privileges on Your Router

How to use the IP Address 192..168.100.1 to make admin changes to a router.

Lifewire

Owners can access their routers over Wi-Fi, which is helpful, but hackers can also access these settings if they get into your network. To play it safe, disable the remote administrative features of your wireless router by turning off the Admin via Wireless configuration setting.

When you disable Admin via Wireless, changes can be made to your router only by someone who is connected to it with an Ethernet cable, so outsiders can't turn off wireless encryption or your firewall. Consult your router's manual for instructions on disabling Admin via Wireless, or visit the manufacturer's website.

Make sure to update the router software. Periodically visit the manufacturer's website to see if a new version of the software is available for download. Register your router with the manufacturer to make sure you get update news.