Best Practices to Keep Home Networks Secure
The world we live in has changed dramatically during our lifetimes. Crime on the streets is as prevalent as ever. As the world landscape becomes more challenging for survival criminals on the streets become more desperate in their efforts to live the lifestyle they want. The same phenomenon is taking place in the cyberspace arena.
In the age of modern technologies and hyper-connectivity, it is a challenge to maintain a secure home and personal environment. It is important to utilize best practices to keep home networks secure. Home and personal networks include all the devices we use in our homes as well as our personal devices that make up our personal area network.
Recommended Practices to Keep Personal Devices Secure
Realize that there are many devices in our lives that we use to make our lives more efficient and productive. We also use many devices to bring us entertainment and relaxation. It seems like we are always connected to some type of network 24/7. Our desktops, laptops, and cellphones are always connected. In this era of the Internet of Things (IoT), even the things that help us with our daily chores like appliances and other household features are connected. Smart home technology is a trend that is continuing to build, and the sky’s the limit in smart home innovations. It takes a conscious effort to follow the best practices to keep home networks secure.
- Maintain Current Operating Systems — All the smart devices we use have some type of operating system in them and require software and firmware updates from time to time. Devices like laptops and cellphones require constant security updates. There are times when an operating system is no longer supported and must be upgraded, sometimes requiring device replacement. Unsupported operating systems are dangerous. Always think security first over convenience. Even IoT devices like security cameras have systems that need to be secured. Always purchase these devices from a reputable dealer and ensure they are capable of providing necessary firmware updates.
- Verify Application Softwares are up to date — Just like malicious actors find vulnerabilities in unpatched operating systems to exploit; they also take advantage of application vulnerabilities. If the software developer no longer supports the application, it’s time to change.
- Always use a Reliable Security Suite — Desktops, laptops, and cellphones all require some type of security suite. Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) use for home Internet service offer a security suite that can be downloaded for multiple devices. You may have to inquire with the provider or search for a download on the Internet. For instance, Cox Communications® offers a security suite by McAfee, but it is almost impossible to find on their website. There are also free options available like Avast® who offer premium as well as free options.
Best Practices to Keep Home Networks Secure
Typically home networks utilize a router/modem that is supplied by the ISP. In this case, the device is typically already set up with a unique secure password, which can be changed at the user’s discretion. However, if you are providing your own router it is necessary to take preliminary actions to ensure the network is secure.
In cases where the environment is a smart home that was built with that concept in mind, there may already be the necessary network router(s) in place. In this case, there is typically more than one network. All of the IoT devices will run on their own network, and all other devices like laptops, tablets, and cellphones will use a separate network. For setup recommendations and best practices for securing smart networks refer to my article entitled “Smart Homes ~ Should We Fear Digital Intruders?”
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Some routers come out of the box with default credentials in place. These are not only not unique, but they are also simple credentials like “admin” for the username, and “password” for the password. Changing these credentials is the first thing that should be done with any network device directly out of the box. In addition, the guest account should be turned off, and only turned back on when needed.
Wireless networks: Best practices to keep home networks secure
Unlike a connected local area network, a wireless local area network does not know the confines of the walls of the dwelling. The wireless signals can travel as far as 1000 feet. With technologies like 5G and Wi-Fi 6, the range is extended and there can be many more additional devices connected that all share the same network. So, there is more data and services at risk. This creates many points of vulnerability and exposes more attack surfaces. Precautions must be taken to ensure people near-by can not access your network. This could be hackers intending to compromise the network or simply a neighbor piggybacking your Internet service.
Going wireless means encryption becomes a necessity
Always configure your wireless routers with the highest level encryption offered by the device. If the router does not offer Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) encryption it should be replaced. A quality router like the ASUS AC2900 WiFi Dual-band Gigabit Wireless Router with 1.8GHz Dual-core Processor has security features that will secure your home network and offer the ability for future network expansion. Your router is your first line of defense against intruders from the outside Internet so it must be secure and equipped with a firewall. Most owner manuals have written procedures for verifying the firewall is active and configured properly.
More general practices to help ensure a secure and safe home network.
- Routine backups for devices and applications — A solid data loss prevention attitude means it is understood that the loss of data due to equipment failure or software bugs can sometimes be as detrimental as being hacked by an outsider. Don’t wait until it’s too late to schedule and initiate backup routines.
- Only use administrator accounts when necessary — Always be sure to logout of administrator accounts after the required tasks have been accomplished. Leaving Administrator accounts logged into just opens up doors for malicious players.
- Browse Safely — Pay attention warnings from your browser about unsafe websites. Use a browser that practices solid privacy methods and uses proper privacy controls like the Brave Browser. Use search engines that protect your privacy too, as does DuckDuckgo. They have bundled their search engine, tracker blocker, and encryption enforcer into one Chrome Extension.
- Use strong passwords for apps and phones — Even if a phone has a strong password the apps also should. Use a password manager to help create and track strong and unique passwords. A great password manager is Dashlane. Always use the best practices to keep home networks secure.
- Be aware of your children’s Internet health — The Internet is great for kids. It can be used for playing interactive games, researching school reports, and communicate with teachers and other kids. But there are risks. Parents should be aware of what their kids are doing online and limit the hours they are online. It’s a big world out there, encourage outdoor activities.
Read more: Home network security using a VPN
Updated on November 26, 2020 by Kirby Allen