Most of us have wireless networks set up in our homes. Unlike the Wi-Fi we use while physically at work, many of us are lax about creating secure wireless networks while at home – leaving a backdoor open to hackers.

At its most basic function, a network allows you to share a single internet connection, as well as data, between multiple devices. Those networks can be wired (with an ethernet cable) or wireless (Wi-Fi). A home network is just a personal network set up to connect your personal devices to your internet.

You may have more than one computer in your home, owned by different people. You personally have a desktop computer, but one of your kids might have a laptop. A printer counts as a separate device. Your landline (if you still use one of course!) is a separate device. Everyone in the household may also have a smart phone that needs to be connected to the internet too. Even if there aren’t that many people living under your roof, those few people may have multiple devices to themselves!

Whatever the type of device or the number of devices, you want to connect them all to the internet. It might also be nice to share and connect devices, and maybe send a print job to the printer upstairs from your smart phone, or do some organizing and send certain files to your extra disk space, etc. Having a home network is pretty helpful! Setting up a home network on your own is also relatively easy for the basic necessities and few devices. It can, however, get complex if you have many devices to connect, manage and protect.

 While either a wired or wireless network is perfectly fine for home use, keep in mind that Wi-Fi signals often broadcast far beyond your homes and out into the streets. And what do you think happens if that network isn’t properly protected? Hackers will absolutely take advantage of your “free” Wi-Fi, and use it to obtain access to your network, and obtain any and all data you may have, including personal information and passwords to many things and gain access to financial institutions, your email, and much more.

The public network at a coffee shop has specific protections put in place to allow it to broadcast for public use. Some are private and are subsequently password protected—depends on the business. The network at the company you work for is often a private network, usually employing the benefits of a VPN, that always requires a password. There are safeguards put in place for both public and private network access to prevent hackers from stealing data and personal information. Which means that if you have a home network, you should too.

First, we recommend setting up a complex password for your router. If your friends and family can connect to your Wi-Fi without a password, you are putting your network at risk. While it might be inconvenient to have to give a complex password to whoever doesn’t have an unlimited data plan with their phone provider whenever they come over, difficult passwords that are impossible to remember are good for system security!

We’ve all been there, searching for that little card your internet service provider gave you when they came to set up your router, which has the default ridiculous combination of letters and numbers that is your password. Many of us are inclined to change it to something more memorable, but it is ill-advised! You are going to have to give the Wi-Fi password to many people who are either live in your household, or visit it regularly. You can’t, however, control who they might give that password to. Having a complex password, and even using the default one your ISP set you up with, is in your best interest. (If you have a hard time coming up with complex passwords, check out our article “Strong Passwords And How to Generate Them”).

Additionally, you should be prepared to change that super complex password frequently. Yes, we know you dread having to have a complex password, but now were telling you to create a different complex password on a regular basis. While there is no specific time-frame to be working with, experts agree that changing your password quarterly (every 3 months) is efficient when dealing with employees of a company. When it comes to your personal information, we would recommend changing your passwords once a month.

Second, you should also be limiting who you give access to your network. Steven Cooper, author of “How to secure your home wireless network (Updated 2021)” of Comparitech says, “Although it seems reasonable to give access to the Wi-Fi to your children, their friends, and your friends, you shouldn’t feel obliged to give out the password to everyone that enters your home. For example, a visiting salesman is a complete stranger and no matter how well dressed they are, you don’t know what their plans are and you can’t trust them. Someone who is on your property to perform a service, such as a plumber, a gardener, or a decorator doesn’t have the right to ask for the password to your Wi-Fi. In these instances, you should be prepared to say ‘No.’”

Third, you can protect your network further by changing the admin credentials of your router. You can access the console of your router from any device connected to the network. Most manufacturers set up the administrator account on routers with the same username and password for every piece of equipment they sell. This is different from simply connecting to the network; it grants you control over the network configuration.

The default username and password may be printed in a booklet that came in the box with the router, or you may be able to find it in the support pages on the Wi-Fi manufacturer’s website. If you can’t find the username and password anywhere, try sys/admin, system/admin, admin/admin, user/user, system/password, and admin/password for the username/password combination. When you find the right combination, you need to look around the menu system for the account details. Be sure to change your password to something complex, (obviously we don’t recommend you leave it as User for your username, and Password for your password!) and don’t forget to write that new password down in a safe place before you log out of the console—Please make sure you log out of the console. You would also benefit from changing the name of the network itself. Router manufacturers often put the brand name or model of the router in the SSID. If you got a router from your internet service provider, the ISP might change that SSID when to show their own name instead of the manufacturer. If you bought the router yourself, its SSID will probably identify the manufacturer or even the model of the router (It should go without saying that you shouldn’t choose an identifier that includes your name, address, or telephone number).

Finally, you should hide your network. Your router doesn’t have to broadcast its SSID. If you block your router from sending out its identifier, your home Wi-Fi becomes a hidden network. Those devices that already have connection data stored will still be able to connect, but passers-by won’t see it. In many cases, the network list that others see will include a line that says “Hidden network.” Without knowing the name of the network, it is impossible to connect to it.

While there are many more things you can do to secure and protect your home network (such as strengthening encryption, updating your router’s firmware, setting up a firewall or a VPN, and even turning off your network when you are away or not using it, and more!), these are of the most basic and essential!