Whether you have DSL, cable or satellite Internet service, there is a box at the end of the wire that allows you to be online. In that box you may have a modem and/or a router with Wi-Fi. The modem allows a computer to talk to the network. The router works as a traffic cop sending the correct messages to different computers. Wi-Fi changes those signals into radio waves for your laptop, cell phone, tablet or Wi-Fi-enabled devices like printers. Just as Wi-Fi allows you to use devices away from the box, it also creates a way for bad guys to get into your computer through that same box.
Today we are going to talk about making that box harder to hack. You can do all this in about 10 minutes in one sitting at your computer.
Locking down your Wi-Fi
- Change the name of your Wi-Fi router
In order to find your Wi-Fi network, it has to announce its name to the world. You have seen this in a restaurant or hotel. When you turn on a Wi-Fi-enabled device, you see a lot of networks: “Linksys,” “Netgear,” “ATT,” etc. If the bad guys know what kind of network box it is, they already know a great deal about hacking it. So use your manual or Google “change my router’s name” and give it another one. Do not use your name or your address or phone number. Use something you will recognize when you are trying to find it, like the name of a car or shoe brand. One trick is to name your router the name of another router brand so a hacker will waste time using the wrong hacks trying to get into yours.
- Turn on passwords and change from the default
Everyone loves open Wi-Fi. It is a nice thing to do for your neighbors, the neighborhood kids after school and that weird guy in the 1999 Pontiac Lemans who parks across the street from your house for two hours every evening. It is also setting you up for hackers, freeloaders and people who want to do illegal things without it being traced back to them.
Do you think the guy who downloads kiddy porn is going to do it from his own Wi-Fi? Turn on passwords and change the password from the default password which every hacker knows (Linksys is usually “admin,” the phone company uses a telephone number, etc). Use a strong password as we discussed last week with upper and lowercase letters, numbers and include punctuation.
- Change the login name
How do you change your password? With your login. What is the login? Whatever the company default is. Linksys usually uses “admin.” Are you seeing a pattern here? The hacker who knows your login can change your password. So make sure your login is different than your password and uses upper and lowercase letters, numbers and some punctuation.
Turn off WAN administration
WAN is a feature that allows you to change your router settings remotely, say when you are on vacation. It also allows a bad guy to change your router settings remotely, say when you are on vacation. Turn it off unless you know you need it.
- Turn on encryption
Because Wi-Fi is radio waves, its signals can be picked up by any receiver. Bad guys can see what you are sending back and forth. Most modern routers have encryption to prevent that, but you have to turn it on and set it up with each of your devices so they can talk to each other over this encrypted line. Use WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access II) if you have the choice. But it is always important to remember that any encryption is better than none. You will give it a password—you know the rules by now. Then when you log on with your laptop or tablet you will give it the password. After that your device will remember it for you.
- Turn off UPnP (Universal Plug and Play)
If you have gamers in the family they may object to this, but there is a way they can limit the feature and use this safely. But for most of us it is a bad thing to leave on. This feature can allow malware from an infected computer to infect all the other computers using the same Wi-Fi network.
- Turn off WPS
This is that “push one button” set up feature that makes connecting devices super easy. However, this feature is broken so we have to stop using it.
Suggestion for the week: find your router manual and lock down your Wi-Fi with these seven steps. Let me know how it goes.