COVID-19 has left many Americans working and learning in a space that they did not expect: their homes. Now more than ever, our living spaces have become the central spot for business, education, and entertainment.
However, home technology is also an easy target, and cyberattacks are on the rise. That’s because the technology most Americans use every day in their homes is insufficiently secure and protected.
To maintain a safe and secure learning and working environment at home, it is critical to implement proper tech security.
Until now, your home might have been set up to support a household that primarily surfed the web to shop and watch movies. Now, family computing environments are taking on the additional and unexpected stresses of being our home offices and classrooms.
Bergen IT has developed Action Tech Tips that will help protect your family, your business, and your devices from attack.
First Line of Defense: Your Router
The first place to start is with your home’s router. These Action Tech Tips can help your family be confident that data is not being compromised:
Tip 1. Change Your Router Username and Password
Every provider’s router comes with a predetermined username and password. It’s typically printed on a label somewhere on the device. Unfortunately, many people stick with this default login. In fact, most people don’t even realize that the login can or should be changed.
But the standard username and password that comes out-of-the-box on these devices is often fairly well-known. Consequently, they are not considered secure. To combat this, change them.
- The label on your router will tell you how to access your router settings. Typically, you must type an address into a web browser. The exact address will vary depending on your router, but it’s something like: 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1.
- Once there, you’ll be able to change the username and password. Just make sure that it’s at least 8 characters/digits long and uses a combination of lower- and upper-case letters, symbols, and numbers that are not easily guessed. Avoid using “password” as your password, for example, or your telephone number or house address.
Tip 2. Change the Wifi Network Name
By default, your wifi network will probably have a provider-related SSID (the name that shows up when scanning for connections on a device). For example, if you have FIOS, it may look something like “FIOS-W56FZ.” Alternatively, it may start with the name of your router manufacturer – such as Belkin or Netgear.
- One drawback of not changing this default name is that any would-be attackers can find out the type of router you’re using. That means they can determine the type of exploits to use to get access.
- Change the name to avoid that problem. But don’t use any personal information that can identify you.
Tip 3. Change the Wifi Network Password
Like the last point, your wifi network may also have a predefined password – usually a random string of letters and numbers – to get devices online. Like your router setting login, these can typically be found somewhere on the router.
- These are usually fairly secure. But it’s good practice to change the details every so often to maximize security.
- You can do this by accessing your router settings (see Tip #1).
Tip 4. Deactivate WPS
Wifi Protected Setup (WPS) is available on many but not all routers. WPS makes it much easier to connect wireless devices to the network – simply push the button marked WPS on the router and you can connect without entering a password.
Some experts have complained that WPS isn’t fully secure, particularly if nefarious types have physical access to your equipment. That is unlikely, of course, but the risk can be fully removed by simply deactivating WPS in your router settings.
Tip 5. Don’t Broadcast Your Wifi Network Name (SSID)
By default, most wifi networks broadcast their names, so you can simply scan for accessible connections on whatever device you’re using. One way you can increase security is to block scanning using your router settings. This is more secure, as people then can’t detect your network.
But it does mean your devices won’t detect the network either. So, if you want to go this route, remember that you will have to manually type in the network name when you want to connect a new device.
Tip 6. Make Sure Your Router Firewall is Enabled
Many routers have a firewall that can be turned on or off. This acts as a filter for data, letting safe bits through, but blocking unauthorized access.
Make sure your firewall is enabled (router settings again), because while it’s not infallible, it is safer on than off. In addition, many internet security tools, such as Kaspersky or Norton, include firewalls of their own, for an extra layer of protection.
Tip 7. Update Your Router’s Firmware
As with your computer or phone, routers receive updates to improve features, fix problems or increase security. Naturally, it’s best to ensure your device is kept fully up to date. Some routers will update automatically, but it’s worth going into your router settings regularly to check if there’s an update available.
Tip 8. Use WPA2
If you are using an older router, you may be using wired equivalent privacy (WPA). This is a security standard that unfortunately is susceptible to hacking and should be avoided.
If you have the option, make sure your router is using WPA2. This is a much more secure security standard. Check the router settings to make sure you’re using this option. And if you don’t have WPA2 available, consider replacing your router.
Tip 9. Filter MAC Addresses
Every single device you use to connect to your wifi has a media access control (MAC) address – essentially an ID for that device. If you go into your router settings, you can set your connection to only accept access from devices with approved MAC addresses.
- Go into the access control settings (this may vary from router to router, but a Google search should help you find it on yours if necessary), and you should see a list of connected devices displaying MAC addresses. You can use this to confirm or deny access as needed.
- Alternatively, all devices will list their MAC address in their settings somewhere. For example, on an iPhone, it can be found under Settings > General > About > Wifi settings. On Android, it’s in Settings > About > Wifi MAC address. The exact path will vary depending on your Android model, however.
Many people might typically have a dedicated IT team to take care of these tech security measures in their offices or schools. But now many of us need to find ways to care for our own systems.
With health, economic, and family concerns at the forefront of our minds, it is easy to lose sight of where our technology might be vulnerable. That is why it is so important to take time to address these needs and gain peace of mind as you continue to adjust to your home workspace.
If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out. Bergen IT is happy to help. We can implement changes and improvements either remotely or, if necessary, on site, employing strict social distancing protocols and standards.
We remain focused on our mission to support small businesses, families, and individuals with their technology needs during this challenging time.
Contact Bergen IT:
Bergen IT is an award-winning, client-centered, comprehensive tech support and strategy company for businesses, professionals, and homeowners. The company services customers in the NJ and New York City metropolitan area, including northern New Jersey (Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, and Passaic, NJ), Manhattan and the Bronx, Rockland and Westchester, NY and can remotely assist clients across the USA.
Bergen IT provides cybersecurity, computer, mobile device, audio, TV, and smart home services. Our focus is on providing personal attention, reasonable rates and top-notch expertise. We are six-time winners of the Angie’s List Super Service Award and a Best of Bergen Award winner and finalist. For more information, go to: www.bergenit.net.