Internet access at home has become a must for most people: adults need it for work, bills, and shopping; kids need it for homework; and everyone uses it to download entertainment and keep in touch with friends. Many of us get web access with a home Wi-Fi network, but most of us don’t know how to keep our private Wi-Fi networks truly private. An unsecured home Wi-Fi network leaves you open to anything from freeloading neighbors using up your bandwidth to criminals stealing your financial information or worse.
There are several things to think about to protect your network, and we’ll talk about them over several blogs. But one of the best ways to keep your network private is to keep outsiders from discovering it in the first place. To make your Wi-Fi less visible:
- Put your router near the center of your house so that the Wi-Fi signal doesn’t reach beyond your walls any farther than necessary. (Typical 2.4 Ghz home Wi-Fi routers reach about 150 feet indoors or 300 feet outdoors.) Alternatively, depending on the shape of your property, nearness of neighbors, or street parking, you might want to place the router at the back or on one side of your house.
- Change the default name of the network. Routers come with a default network name, called the SSID, that includes the device manufacturer. (For example, devices made by Linksys use the default SSID “linksys”.) When would-be hackers see a default SSID on a network, they tend to assume that other default security settings haven’t been changed, so it makes that network a more promising target for them.
- Don’t put your family name in the SSID. If a hacker is sitting in your neighborhood, they already have your address. If they then tap into your network named “TheSmithsWifi”, they can spy in your online activities, add that to the name and address that they now know, and get a jumpstart on identity theft.
- Don’t broadcast your SSID at all. By default, the router broadcasts the SSID regularly so that it’s discoverable by devices within its range. But you and your family and guests know your network is there, and you don’t want other people knowing, so you can turn that feature off. You just have to manually enter the SSID on your own devices so that they know to look for your network. This is a one-time thing, and it just takes a moment. (You can see detailed instructions for shutting down SSID broadcast here.)
These steps will make your Wi-Fi network harder to discover, and enemies can’t attack what they don’t see. (There’s a reason Harry Potter and all those Star Trek villains wanted cloaking devices!) And stay tuned for other blogs where we’ll talk about more ways to defend your home network.