Home network security: How to be cyber safe

Mon Oct 03 2022

Parents and kids using laptop and digital tablet in living room

These days, people’s homes are filled with televisions, computers, mobile phones, gaming consoles, and even appliances that all connect to the internet. While all of these internet-connected devices simplify our lives, they can also make it easier for unscrupulous people to access our homes. The result? Home network security needs to be a priority.

What is a home network?

Your home network is all of the devices in your house that connect to the internet and each other. Some examples of these devices include:

  • Computers.
  • Televisions
  • Smartphones.
  • Gaming devices.
  • Smart appliances.
  • Printers.

Additionally, many homeowners have a broadband connection that uses a modem and a router to give multiple devices internet access.

Hackers can take advantage of vulnerabilities in your home network to install malware, steal data, or commit identity fraud. These tips can reduce the likelihood of that happening.

1. Update your home network’s name and password

One of the first things you should do when securing your home network is to change the default name and password of your home network. By changing the network name, also called the Service Set Identifier (SSID), to a non-generic name, you show cybercriminals that you’re paying attention.

Hackers often target home networks using a default name because they assume the owner isn’t managing the system. Moreover, cybercriminals can recognize the manufacturer of a router by its default name and any vulnerabilities associated with it. Changing your network’s name makes it more difficult to exploit.

You should also change the default password of your router to a strong password with at least 12 characters which is a mixture of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Leaving the default password on a router can make it easier to hack – especially if the router manufacturer is well-known in cyber communities.

One last note: When setting up a custom SSID and password, you never want to use personal information, such as your name and address. Passwords with personal information can be easily guessed.

2. Use a guest network

Having guests over is great, but it usually means you’ll have additional devices logging in on your home network. Unfortunately, your guest’s smartphone could have malware that can attack other devices connected to your WiFi.

A guest network lets your friends connect to your WiFi without giving them access to any folders, network devices, or storage devices that are shared on your primary network. Setting one up is usually easy to do from your device settings. Just remember you’ll need to create a separate SSID and strong password to go along with it.

3. Turn on your router firewall

Router firewalls should be turned on as they are great ways to protect against unwanted traffic from going in and out of your home network. They essentially act as a barrier to your network from other internet devices, while still allowing devices on your network to connect to other internet devices. Router firewalls may be off by default, so you need to double-check this setting.

4. Encrypt your home network

Most routers come with an encryption option that can be turned on and allow you to further secure your network. These encryption levels include:

  • WEP. This stands for wired equivalent privacy, and it’s the first level of security developed to provide the same level of security found in wired networks.
  • WPA2. Developed in 2004, WPA2 increases the security found in WEP.
  • WPA3. WPA3 was created to both simplify WiFi security and improve upon features found in WPA2.

You should aim to use WPA2 or WPA3 because they are more secure, but all these options encrypt the information that is sent and received over your home network.

5. Disable remote access

Many routers have a remote access feature that allows your WiFi network to be accessible from anywhere there is an internet connection. That may be an amazing convenience for you, but it also makes it easy for a hacker to gain entry into your home. Unless you absolutely need the feature, it’s best to turn off the remote access setting.

6. Update your devices regularly

Both your home network and the devices connected to it need to be updated. Devices not up to date may have vulnerabilities that can be easily exploited by criminals, so patching them whenever a new update is released is so important.

Some devices like routers may not be updated automatically, so you want to get in the habit of updating your router manually on a recurring basis. This can go a long way towards making your home network more secure. The process for this is different with every router, so take the time to look up how to install updates or turn on automatic updates if possible.

7. Turn off your network when you go

If you are going on vacation or leaving your house for an extended period of time, it’s best to turn off your router. This helps ensure no one has access to your home network. Hackers will be unable to see or target your devices, giving you peace of mind while away.

About the authors

Abby Schulte is a senior security analyst with Kin Insurance. She graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with a bachelor’s degree in Homeland Security. In her free time, Abby enjoys being a Girl Scout Leader, participating in multiple roles within the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and enjoying the outdoors.

Tony Le, CISM, CDPSE is a staff security engineer at Kin who brings with him over 19 years of hands-on experience as a networking and security expert. He guides aspiring security professionals as part of ISACA’s cybersecurity mentorship program and loves traveling with his family.


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