If you want to know how to secure your WiFi, you're not the only one. Learning how to secure a wireless network is necessary to protect you and your family's Internet safety and online privacy when surfing the web and using apps.
There are 1.5 million cyber attacks every year, according to CBS News. If you don't want to become another number, follow the steps outlined in this article to secure your wireless network. By the end, you will know exactly how to prevent attackers and hackers from stealing your information and using your network.
How to Secure Your Wi-Fi - In This Guide
WiFi Security: Important Steps You Need to Take
If you want Wi-Fi home security, there are certain steps you can take to protect your connection and information. Your wireless connection will be much safer if you follow these steps.
- Change your network's name, username, and password.
- Activate encryption mode on your router.
- Set up Firewalls and/or a VPN.
- Turn off WPS.
- Update your router's firmware.
Once you have taken each of these steps, you can say you have the most secure Wi-Fi connection possible. This way, you don't have to worry about preventing identity theft and protecting your sensitive information from outsiders.
Related: How to Create A Strong Password
Wi-Fi Security Types
Wireless security helps stop intruders from using your Wi-Fi and hacking your information. There are various different types of Wi-Fi security standards to choose from when you purchase a plan with the best Internet provider. Your options and their names will depend on what router you have and the standard you choose will determine how secure your connection is. The different security standards include:
WEP vs. WPA vs. WPA2
WEP was the standard for wireless security used in most homes when it came out in the late 1990s. It stands for Wired Equivalent Privacy. Certain routers support different versions of the WEP standard and will allow you to choose one; others only have one option. The different versions determine how long each WEP key is; the longer, the better. Different WEP standards include:
- WEP 64-bit key
- WEP 128-bit key
- WEP 256-bit key
A WEP key is a sequence of numbers and letters used to access your encrypted wireless data. Your encrypted wireless units of data, or the information you type in, click on, and search for on the Internet, are also known as information packets shared between an origin and a destination. The WEP standard only uses one key to encrypt every single packet of information shared on your wireless network. As a result, it is not as secure as WPA or WPA2, which use separate keys for each packet of information for more security.
WPA is an updated version of the WEP standard that stands for Wi-Fi Protected Access. It uses a TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol) to create a longer WPA key that changes for each individual packet of encrypted information shared over your network, unlike WEP.
There are two different types of WPA standards: WPA-Personal (a.k.a. WPA- PSK) is used for home networks while WPA-Enterprise is used for corporate business networks. Enterprise mode provides a different master key for each client while personal mode provides the same encrypted master key for all. Ultimately, the WPA network standard is more secure than WEP but still less secure than the WPA2 standard.
WPA2 is the fastest and most secure of all network standards; therefore, it should be used whenever possible. Similar to WPA, it has two different types: one for corporate businesses and one for home networks. You will need a WPA2 password to access this secure network connection. If you are using personal mode, you will have to set up a password to share with whoever you want to have access to your network. Enterprise mode is a bit more complex to set up.
The biggest difference between WPA and WPA2 is that WPA2 uses a government level Advanced Encryption Standard protocol instead of the less secure RC4 standard like WPA and WEP. Apparently, the RC4 (Rivest Cipher 4) standard is more prone to cyber-attacks than the AES standard. If you use the WPA2-Personal standard, you shouldn't have to worry as much about others using your connection or hacking your information.
Related: How to Connect to WiFi
Wi-Fi Router Security Password
Now that you know a little bit about the different Wi-Fi networks, here's how to secure your Wi-Fi router security settings.
1. Change the Name of Your Network, Username & Password
Routers usually come with a default network name, username, and password. The default network name (or the SSID) as well as your default username and password are public data and can be accessed by anyone who wants to steal your connection or wireless packet information. Did you know this?
In case you didn't know, you should always reset your username and password as soon as your router is up and running to make your Wi-Fi connection more secure. Your secure Wi-Fi router provider and computer brand will determine how to secure your Wi-Fi network name, username, and password. Generally, you'll need to access your router's configuration page. This will either be accessible with your IP address through your web browser or through your computer's settings.
How To Change Router Security Settings On Windows
1. If you're on a Windows computer, press Windows Key + R.
2. Then type "cmd" (without quotations) into the search box and press enter. It should look like this.
3. Next, type "ipconfig" (without quotations) into the window that says "Command Prompt". Press enter again.
Now you should see your router's IP address to the right of where it says "Default Gateway." Next, type the IP address into the search engine in your web browser, and press enter. Here is where you'll be able to log in using either your default username and password or those you've created.
To change your username and password, enter the username and password listed on the back of your router. If you cannot find your username and password, you may need to look up where it's located for your specific router. Type "default password" and your router's model name into your web browser to find it.
Once you're logged in, look for Wi-Fi settings. Once you find it, you should see your Wi-Fi network name, username, and password. Change your information here. Make sure your password is long enough with enough letters and numbers. The more complex, the more secure your network.
Learning how to secure a wireless network is necessary to protect you and your family's Internet safety
How To Change Router Security Settings On A Mac
If you're working on an Apple Mac, the process is going to be a little different.
1. First, go to your Launchpad
2. Go to System Preferences
3. Then Network. It should look like this.
Then click on the network you're connected to and hit Advanced. Your screen should then look like this.
From there, click over to the tab "TCP/IP" and you should see your router number next to "Router."
Once you have the router number, type it into your web browser and you should be lead to an admin router page where you ca log into your account. You can also access your router number on a Mac by clicking the "Option" key on your keyboard and clicking your Wi-Fi icon on the top right of your screen simultaneously. The encryption type, IP address, and router number will be in light gray underneath the name of the router you're connected to.
Then, follow the rest of the instructions from above to change your router's name, username, and password through your settings.
2. Enable Encryption Mode on Your Router
Encryption is the act of scrambling your wireless information so that only those who are supposed to see it can see it, according to the FCC. Your router's Encryption mode makes it so that your wireless connection requires a password to access. It also makes it so that every unit of data sent from your origin to its destination is encrypted with keys, depending on your Wi-Fi standard.
This mode should be set as soon as you connect to your router for the first time if your router doesn't already come in encryption mode. If you want to check to see if you already have encryption mode on, you can use your smartphone. Click on your Wi-Fi network in your settings and if you are required to type in a password (that's not already saved), you are in encryption mode.
If you have an older WEP or WAP router, your encryption mode may be weak. Since WEP and WAP standards don't use as secure of a network as WPA2, you may want to simply upgrade your router. If you have a WPA2 standard router, here is how you can turn encryption mode on.
- Go to your router configuration page in your web browser using the same router number you found before.
- Click on either Wireless Security or Wireless Network Settings.
- Change your Wireless Encryption Type to WPA2-PSK, the personal WPA2 network. If you don't have this option, use WPA-PSK or WPA/WPA2-PSK. Try not to use WEP.
- Click apply.
Public Wi-Fi Security
Public Wi-Fi is common in coffee shops, libraries, and airports. It's a Wi-Fi connection that is not secure because all information packets use the same key for encryption, no matter who is surfing the web. If your Wi-Fi connection doesn't require a password, it can be considered public Wi-Fi.
Public Wi-Fi is not as safe as private Wi-Fi. This is because your sensitive information, such as login and payment information, can potentially be accessed by anyone using the network who is smart and determined enough to crack the encryption key. For this reason, you should try to make sure you use encrypted websites if you have to use public-Wi-Fi. You may also want to look into a private WiFi hotspot for better privacy.
To make sure you're on an encrypted website, check the beginning of the URL for each website you visit. If every website starts with "https", you are using secure, encrypted websites. It looks like this:
If there is no "s", the website cannot be trusted. Keep in mind, you should also never fill in sensitive information on mobile apps when you're not on a secure network.
3. Set up Firewalls and/or a VPN Service
Another way to protect your information, whether you're using public or private Wi-Fi, is to install or activate a firewall. Every firewall is different with a different setup. All in all, firewalls are software you can download to defend against intruders from one network to another. They can keep a history of anyone who has tried to gain access to your sensitive information, check the source's credentials before allowing access, and block untrustworthy websites to protect against viruses.
If a firewall is not enough, a VPN is a more advanced, secure version of a firewall. VPNs use a box with advanced encryption protocols to secure all of the data transferred over your public or personal wireless network. If you're the least bit worried about how to secure your Wi-Fi, a VPN may be your easiest, most reliable bet, especially if you're using public WiFi. Check out the best VPN services to see which one is the best for you. After all, each service features a different setup.
How To Kick People Off Your Wi-Fi
There are plenty of ways to kick people off of your Wi-Fi if your password has been compromised. Here are a couple such ways.
4. Turn Off WPS
WPS stands for Wi-Fi Protected Setup. It is a setting that essentially makes it a lot easier for anyone who's trying to guess your Wi-Fi password and access your connection and/or information to do so. WPS should be turned off if you don't want anyone to easily access your network. If your router allows you to disable WPS, you can do so in the settings section on your router's web-based interface dashboard account.
5. Update Your Router's Firmware
Firmware is a word for the new router software wireless companies put out to update holes in security. Consistently check your router's firmware for updates to easily kick pesky hackers or people trying to steal your connection off of your Wi-Fi. To figure out if you're updated, go to your router settings in your router's web-based dashboard account. Check there to see if there are any signs of an update.
Now that you know how to secure your Wifi, do it. Make sure your router is as secure as possible so no one can access your personal information and connection but you. To take even stronger measures, you can check out our comparison of the best identity protection services. For more information on how to stay safe online, we have a comprehensive guide on Internet Safety and Online Privacy.
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