Remember the days when you actually had to plug your computer into the router in order to connect to the internet? Well, those days are long gone, and while it is mostly a good thing, there was some benefit to the old practice. It was much harder for someone to hack into your computer without a wireless connection. Now, anyone in the nearby vicinity of your apartment or home can easily access your connection if you haven’t taken measures to properly secure it. If someone else “piggybacks” onto your wireless network, it will not only slow down your internet speed, but it also poses a major security risk. Securing your home WiFi network is essential for protecting your privacy and sensitive data, such as banking login information and email passwords. Read on for 5 simple steps you can take to ensure your WiFi is more secure at home.

Step 1: Reset the default password for your router

Open the router settings page. (If you are not sure how to do this, check the router manual, as all routers are different.) Once you have logged into the router settings page, you should change the password to something unique and not associated with you. (No children’s or pet’s names or birthdays.) Remember to use SNL (symbols, numbers and letters). Passphrases are the most secure method and easiest way to remember your passwords.

Step 2: Change your network’s name

This doesn’t necessarily make your network more secure. However, it helps users know exactly which network they are connecting to, and it can deter people from wanting to connect to your network. A clever way to prevent people from trying to connect to your network is naming it something such as “Virus Infected WiFi” or “Police Station”. No one wants to get infected with a virus or commit the crime of hacking on the Police Department’s network.

Step 3: Encrypt your wireless signals

WEP, WPA and WPA2 are some of the encryption methods available for you to use. To enable encryption, go to your router’s configuration page. Open the wireless security settings and choose the encryption method you wish to use. WPA2 is the best encryption method; however, WEP may be the only option for some older devices.

Step 4: Filter MAC addresses

All wireless devices have a unique MAC address, like your computer’s IP address. You can add the MAC address of all your devices to your wireless router’s settings so that only the MAC addresses you have specified are able to connect. Unfortunately, it is possible to spoof a MAC address, but a hacker would first need to know the MAC address of the computer connected to the network. While not a perfect method, filtering MAC addresses will still keep most people from being able to connect to your network. (Another downside to this is the inconvenience of having to add a friend or guest’s MAC address to the “safe” list if they want to connect while visiting you.)

Step 5: Reduce Your Wireless Signal’s Range

This applies mostly to people who live in smaller spaces, but even if you have a single family home, you shouldn’t be able to access your network down the street. Decrease the signal range by changing the mode of your router to 802.11g (instead of 802.11n or 802.11b). You can also decrease the signal range by using a different wireless channel. Even more (less conventional) options to decrease signal range are to place the router under your bed, in a shoe box or to wrap foil around the router antennas in order to somewhat restrict the direction of signals. How about this super cool method… Paint your walls with Anti-WiFi Paint. The paint contains a chemical that blocks radio signals so users cannot connect to your WiFi. If you choose to paint your walls with Anti-WiFi paint, make sure you still employ the other prevention steps above! http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8279549.stm

Tyler Balding

Lead e-Learning Developer at SAC
Tyler spends her days finding fresh, fun ways to teach age-old security concepts, making all of SAC's e-learning modules visually stimulating. She spends her free time traveling and perfecting her wine-tasting skills, and steals the boss’s dog on weekends.