It is impossible to talk about the online security of an Internet user without bringing secure wireless networks into the discussion. Your router is the gateway between your home network and the public Internet, so it requires top-notch protection.
In this article, we are showing you the 8 most efficient ways to secure your Wi-Fi network, whether you are home, at work or in public. Before doing that, we will quickly go through the risks of insecure wireless networks.
We are also urging you to check for fake Wi-Fi hotspots and rogue access points, as well as to scan your Wi-Fi network for unknown devices before taking any additional steps.
Take a look at the list of topics below to see what we are talking about (click to jump).
- The risks of insecure wireless networks
- Check for fake Wi-Fi hotspots and rogue access points
- Scan your Wi-Fi network for unknown devices
How to secure your wireless network
- 1. Set up a unique and complex router password
- 2. Set a boring SSID to your wireless network
- 3. Filter your devices using MAC filtering
- 4. Create a guest wireless network
- 5. Disable 5GHz wireless in your router
- 6. Change your router’s firmware and keep it up to date
- 7. Get a hardware firewall for your home or office
- 8. Use a VPN to protect all your data
- In conclusion
The risks of insecure wireless networks
The security of your home network is paramount for all members of your family. If you do not properly secure your wireless network, then an outside party could connect to it to piggyback on your bandwidth.
In turn, you will have to pay more money each month to your ISP if you have a limited data plan. Also, all your home devices connected to the Wi-Fi will have to share the network bandwidth with unauthorized individuals, which means that the Internet connection speed decreases for each device.
Things could take a turn for the worse if the hacker decides to break into your devices to steal personal data, such as sensitive photos or credit card information. Or the cyber-criminal could do illegal activities while connected to your home Wi-Fi, which will draw the unwanted attention of the police to your home, blaming you in the process.
Therefore, you must take all the necessary measures to increase your Wi-Fi security.
Check for fake Wi-Fi hotspots and rogue access points
Before securing your home or office wireless network, you have to do some check-ups to weed out any fake Wi-Fi hotspots and rogue access points.
If someone created a clone of the original wireless network to lure people into connecting to that hotspot instead of your own, it means they have created a fake Wi-Fi hotspot.
It comes with serious risks because hackers could use the clone to steal online identities and login credentials, spread malware in your network, take up your entire bandwidth or use your Wi-Fi for illegal activities.
Meanwhile, rogue access points are wireless access points that were created on your private network without your permission. They can be used by cyber-criminals to remotely scan your network for vulnerabilities and exploit them.
However, there are simple ways in which you can resolve this matter if your network has been subjected to fake Wi-Fi hotspots and rogue access points. Check them out to see how you can secure your own wireless network.
Scan your Wi-Fi network for unknown devices
To find out if there are unknown devices connected to your wireless network, you can runs scans on your router using Wireless Network Watcher. It is a free and easy-to-use Windows application that automatically detects all devices connected to your Wi-Fi.
But if you want to get advanced information, you can use Wireshark. It is a free packet sniffing program that scans all Wi-Fi traffic, including HTTP requests. It can be used on Windows, Linux, and macOS.
When it comes to Android and iOS, you can use Fing, a free app that can discover all devices connected to your wireless network. Plus, it can gather a wide range of data, such as hostnames and MAC addresses.
How to secure your wireless network
There are multiple ways in which you can secure your wireless network at home, at work, or when you are in public. Here are the eight most efficient methods.
1. Set up a unique and complex router password
Before you consider any other options, take a visit at your router’s configuration page in order to change the router password. It is the one that all devices must enter to join your secure wireless network.
To do this, you can enter 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1 in the address bar of your web browser, depending on which type of router you have. Then, you must log in to the administration panel and change the password.
Pick the WPA or WPA2 encryption mode and make the password as complex as possible by entering a random sequence of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols. The more characters you use, the stronger the security will be.
Even if you already have an elaborate password set, it is a good idea to regularly change it. But you should definitely do this if you have noticed any unknown devices when scanning your home wireless network with a specialized tool.
By the way, unless you knew this already, most router vendors set default passwords to the router administration panel. And, if someone hacked into your home wireless network, they could log into the router admin panel using a public database of default passwords, in order to make any security changes that could damage your home wireless system without even realizing it.
2. Set a boring SSID to your wireless network
The SSID represents the display name of your wireless network. It is used by devices to determine your Wi-Fi out of many others. Therefore, you should consider making the hacker’s job as challenging as possible by setting a boring SSID.
For instance, you should never give out personal information, like your name, apartment number, or home address. But you should not stick to the default SSID issued by your router brand either. Instead, try to blend in with other SSIDs in your range by mimicking the format of their names – make your SSID indistinguishable from others.
3. Filter your devices using MAC filtering
MAC addresses are unique alphanumerical sequences used to identify your devices across the local network. And routers use MAC addresses to set apart your devices in LAN.
But you cannot see the MAC addresses of devices that do not belong to your own network. As such, you can use a little trick to allow only known MAC addresses to connect to your router.
Firstly, you must learn the MAC addresses of your devices. Make sure to connect all your home gadgets to your Wi-Fi network. Include printers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, Kindle, Smart TV, Playstation, Xbox, and anything else that can join your wireless network.
Then, head over to your router’s admin panel in the web browser and take note of the MAC address of all wireless clients. Secondly, find a MAC filtering section in the admin panel and create a whitelist using all MAC addresses you found.
This way, only pre-approved devices are allowed to join your network, so you do not have to worry about outsiders. However, this also means that you have to add a new MAC address to the whitelist on any changes. For example, you must do this every time a friend comes to visit, unless you set up a guest network.
4. Create a guest wireless network
Setting up a guest wireless network at home or at the office comes with many benefits. Essentially, it means isolating the home or business network from the one that can be solely used by visitors.
When it comes to securing your wireless network, a guest Wi-Fi helps by keeping insecure devices at bay. If a person that has malware on their device connects to your main network, you risk compromising everything.
What’s more, you can throttle the bandwidth speed of your guest network. This way, you ensure that visitors will not slow down your Internet connection to a halt by watching Netflix while you are supposed to work.
To create a guest wireless network, you can use your router’s admin panel. But a more efficient way is to get an additional router and use it exclusively for visitors.
5. Disable 5GHz wireless in your router
Modern routers feature two types of frequency: 2.5Ghz and 5Ghz. If both frequencies are enabled on your router, it means that you have two wireless networks: 2.5Ghz and 5Ghz, respectively.
The main difference between the two frequencies is that 2.5Ghz is weaker but long-ranged, while 5Ghz is stronger but short-ranged. In other words, 5Ghz is designed to ensure the best possible wireless network speed to devices that are physically close to the router.
Meanwhile, 2.5Ghz cannot deliver the same wireless network speed, but it promises to reach devices that are not next to the router. It works for big apartments and multi-storey buildings where there are several walls between the router and devices.
Most people evidently use 5Ghz because it means better speed. Therefore, if you are not living in a big house that requires 2.5Ghz, you should definitely consider turning off this signal in your router’s administration panel. There is a smaller chance that people from other apartments or buildings would be in the 5Ghz range.
6. Change your router’s firmware and keep it up to date
It is crucial to regularly update your router’s firmware and take advantage of the latest security features. All you have to do is go to your router’s admin panel and look for a firmware update option.
However, if the default firmware of your router does not have enough security features, then you should consider installing other firmware. It is as simple as changing your operating system: if you are not pleased with Windows, you can switch to Linux.
Secondly, you have to download and install the firmware compatible with your router. Once it is all set up, feel free to explore the security features of your new firmware to see how it is possible to further increase your wireless security.
7. Get a hardware firewall for your home or office
The firewall is the first line of defense between private networks and the outside Internet. Its job is to monitor incoming and outgoing traffic, as well as to block any connections by committing to the rules you established.
All people are aware of software firewalls. But not everyone knows they can set up a hardware firewall and connect it to the router to provide enhanced security.
Furthermore, some types of hardware firewalls have integrated features to help you protect your children’s online safety by monitoring their activity and stopping cyber-threats.
8. Use a VPN to protect all your data
The role of a VPN service is to keep your information safe by creating a secure tunnel to encrypt all data traffic flowing in and out of your computer. Using various VPN protocols and encryption methods, it boosts your online privacy and security when connecting to a wireless network.
A VPN is particularly helpful when you have no other option but to connect to a public, unencrypted Wi-Fi hotspot. It happens when you are on the move and especially when traveling to foreign countries.
Unless you can take advantage of an unlimited mobile data plan, you must rely on public wireless networks, yet most are not secure. And hackers are known to lurk around such places to find and attack the devices of unsuspecting victims.
But if a virtual private network application encrypts all your Internet traffic, then you have nothing to worry about. Even if a hacker manages to get hold of your information, they would only see scrambled data that does not mean anything.
What’s more, it is possible to install a VPN service on your router to turn it into a VPN router. As a result, you can share the VPN connection with all devices connected to your wireless network. You just need to find out if your router’s firmware supports VPN clients. Then, you can add an OpenVPN configuration using the OpenVPN connection details from your VPN provider.
The security of your personal and work devices depends on how secure your wireless network is. Therefore, you must be extra careful and take the necessary precautions to ensure that cyber-criminals will not be able to hack into your computer and take over.
What are your favorite ways for protecting your wireless network? We would love to hear your suggestions, so please do not hesitate to drop us a line in the comment section below.