In this day and age information security is becoming more and more vital. In a world where every week massive targeted hacks compromised an unprecedented amount of data, and ransomware can bring the largest of companies to their knees we must do everything we can to secure our personal home networks. I think in many cases people focus solely on securing their computers giving little to no thought about their router. This is an unfortunate oversight, securing your router the literal gateway connecting your personal network to the raw internet is every bit as essential as securing your personal computer. Home routers are often targeted in cyber-attacks because the majority of people never change the factory settings. It is amazing how many people leave the default device name and password, doing this amounts to inviting criminals into your network. Not only do people not change these credentials but generally the routers you get from your service provider are subpar and have well documented back doors. I know this sounds scary because in all honesty it is, however there are some very simple steps you can take to validate that your home router is not compromised.
One of the most important and basic steps you can take in securing your router is to change the administrative credentials. How to do this varies slightly by manufacture and model but is generally an easy process involving logging into a website or sometimes connecting your computer to the router via ethernet. Once logged in its usually as easy as entering and saving more secure credentials. This is of the upmost importance when it comes to securing your router, if you do not change this anyone can easily penetrate your network by simply looking up the default login information, worse than that in most cases you can easily guess the information because most default logins are things like “admin” and “password01”. For in depth instruction on how to change these settings check the instruction manual of your router or google how to do it for your specific router.
Another easy but important step is to change your SSID or network name. Generally, when your ISP installs your router they give your network a name that either A identifies the device such as “Linksys” or “cisco” or B that gives other identifying information about the network like your last name or physical address. I recommend changing your network SSID to anything else, basically as long as it’s giving no information to a potential hacker. The problem with having your network named Linksys is now anyone in range knows what type of router you have and this information makes it easier to hack, same goes for personal information like your last name or address. Any information a hacker could use to narrow details about you or your network is potentially dangerous. Your SSID can be changed much the same way as the login credentials by dialing into the router and changing the settings. Once again this will vary slightly by manufacturer and instructions can be easily found on google. An added bonus of changing your default SSID is just changing the name alone may be enough to deter a hacker because just knowing that you changed your SSID hints at the fact that you may have more security in place and most hackers will just move on to easier prey.
Lastly if you are using any encryption other than WPA2 encryption you should change it to WPA2. This is important because other types of encryption are easily compromised. Older forms of encryption such as WPA and WEP wireless encryption are very easy to crack, WEP can even be cracked with a smartphone app by a user with no real knowledge of hacking. If you’re unsure of what type of encryption you have it is very easy to figure out, simply log into your network from any device and when your prompted to enter the password it will say which type of encryption is being used. If you’re already using WPA2 congratulations you are using strong encryption. If, however you are using any other type of encryption I strongly suggest you change to WPA2. Changing the type of wireless encryption is done in the same manner as changing the above settings you must log into your wireless router's administrator console and head to the security settings from there it’s as easy as changing a setting. These are three easy but essential steps in validating your home router is not compromised.