One of the first things people ask when they visit your home is: “What’s the Wi-Fi password?” Home Wi-Fi is no longer a luxury but almost a necessity for many households. So many home devices: computer, laptop, smartphones, tablets, smart TV, printer, home cameras, and for some households, even lightbulbs and refrigerator connect to the internet! The hub of all this connection is the router – the thing that connects all your Wi-Fi-enabled devices to each other on a home network and to the internet. To ensure that your devices are secure and safe from hackers, it’s important that your home router is secure. That’s how you’ll increase the security of your home Wi-Fi network and all the devices connected to the router.
Note: You do not have to use Wi-Fi to access the internet. You can still use an Ethernet cable if your device is not Wi-Fi enabled only.
WHAT IS A ROUTER?
A router is the access point for your Wi-Fi-enabled devices. Whether you have DSL, ADSL, cable, or old-fashioned dialup, (and some versions of NBN), in order for you to connect to the internet, you need a modem and a router. (Sometimes, the modem and router are combined into one device.) The modem is generally provided by your Internet provider and it’s what allows you to connect to the Internet. The router (which can be a separate device or built into the modem) is what connects your Wi-Fi-enabled devices to the modem, and thereby the Internet.
All the devices that are connected to your router forms a network. This is what allows your devices to “talk” to each other – for example, if you have a Wi-Fi printer, you can print wirelessly if the device you’re printing from and your printer are all on the same network.
WHAT IS THE SECURITY RISK?
Because all your devices are connected to the router, if someone were to gain access to your router, that person may be able to monitor the internet traffic from your devices, limit your devices’ access to the router (and the Internet), or perhaps even gain access to your devices. If your router is very insecure, someone with the right skills can even hack your router, take it over, or set it up so that when you connect to the internet, you’re connecting to fake websites – where whoever built the fake website can steal your information when you enter personal data (such as username, passwords, credit card information, etc.) into those fake websites.
WHAT CAN I DO?
The first thing you should do is put a password on your Wi-Fi network. When you set up your Wi-Fi network, you’re asked to create a name for your network (SSID) and offered the opportunity to create a password for the network. If someone wanted to join your Wi-Fi network, they would need to know the password to join.
In addition to password protecting the network, choose a network name that isn’t personally identifiable, such as “Ae374-jid” versus something that is identifiable, such as “John&KatesWiFi.” The purpose is to unknown devices to connect to your home network.
In most cases, to log into your router, you were given a website URL that contains a series of numbers and dots. To sign into your router, you connect your computer to the router, enter the URL address into a web browser, and sign in with a username and password. We recommend changing the default sign-in to something that’s unique to you. This way, other people can’t log into your router simply because they know the default log-in credentials. (Granted, for someone to do that, they would either have to be physically connected to your router or they would have to know specific information about your router to access it remotely. Still, it’s best practice to change the default credentials.)
Don’t forget that security patches are not just for your router. Your Wi-Fi-enabled devices also need to be updated. When your phone or computer suggests that you update the operating system, it’s sometimes because the update includes security patches. If you have an older device that is no longer getting updates from the manufacturers (and is no longer being protected from the latest security threats), consider buying a newer device.
©2019 BC Society of Transition Houses, Technology Safety Project.
Adapted from and in cooperation with the WESNET Safety Net Australia project at the Women’s Services Network, Australia