When it comes to the home, most people overlook network security, but in reality, home security should be taken as seriously as business security (just on a smaller scale). This doesn't mean you need to hire a team of network security engineers, but it does mean that you need to pay attention. Applying good home security is more than protecting your photos. It's about protecting your finances and identity.
In most cases, there are 3 simple things you can do to drastically improve your home network security. All 3 things are something that most people can do on their own. For those who don't feel comfortable, you can contact us here. Regardless, these are 3 things that everyone should be doing!
1) Update your router firmware
Think of firmware as the engine of your car. Without it, nothing happens. Just like a car's engine needs to be well-maintained, the firmware that controls your router needs to be maintained and updated. It's a little confusing at first because while firmware is hardware, it uses software to interface with the router (you can almost think of the oil running through your car's engine as the software to firmware). It's a chip that controls the device. In most cases, updating your firmware is as simple as logging in to your router (through one of a variety of ways), checking for updates and applying those updates. It's important to ensure that your firmware is up-to-date because your router vendor is likely updating the security of the firmware on a regular basis. It's up to you to apply those new security features.
2) Use a strong p@ssw0rd
There are usually two passwords that need to be set on your router. One is the management password (the one that let's you make changes to the router) and the other is the one that allows you to connect to the wireless network. In both cases, you should be using strong, difficult-to-guess passwords. A good password includes a combination of lower-case and upper-case characters, special characters and numbers. A good password is usually not a word that can be guessed or found in the dictionary. An example of a good password might be "D0ntUs3M3!". In this example, we're still using a phrase that is easy to remember, but replacing some of the letters with numbers or special characters. Complex passwords don't need to be complex.
3) Use a guest wireless network for guests
Most modern wireless routers today give you the ability to create and use a "Guest" network. This is a special network that gives users access to the Internet but nothing else on the network. It's completely separate. For security reasons, this is a very good thing. If you have a friend over and give that friend access to your primary wireless network, he/she now has access to the Internet as well as all devices on the network (other computers, printers, etc). Conversely, if you give that same friend access to the guest network, he/she only has access to the Internet. That's it.
If you're in the market for a new wireless router, I highly recommend the Apple Airport Extreme. At time of this post, it will cost you $200, and is hands-down one of the best, most stable and easy-to-use wireless routers on the market today. And no, it's not just for Macs. They use industry standards when it comes to wireless, so it works well with all types of devices (including older PCs).