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All Wi-Fi networks are vulnerable to hacking, but some are less so than others. These 10 tips will help keep your home network secure.
David Anders Senior Writer
David Anders is a senior writer for CNET covering broadband providers, smart home devices and security products. Prior to joining CNET, David built his industry expertise writing for the broadband marketplace Allconnect. In his 5 plus years covering broadband, David's work has been referenced by a variety of sources including ArcGIS, DIRECTV and more. David is from and currently resides in the Charlotte area with his wife, son and two cats.
Expertise Broadband providers, Home internet, Security Cameras
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7 min read
Wi-Fi makes it easy to connect laptops, smartphones, home security devices and more to our home network. Unfortunately, Wi-Fi also makes it easier for hackers to access your home network and the data on those devices.
With so much potentially accessible data --credit cardnumbers, bank records,login credentials, live camera feeds and other personal and private information -- you want to ensure you're protecting yourself from hackers if your network is ever compromised.
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A secure home network will help reduce the risk of getting hacked and having someone access your sensitive information. Not only that, it will keep away unwanted or unauthorized users and devices that would slow down your connection or freeload on the internet service you pay for.
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It's fairly simple to create and maintain a secure home Wi-Fi network. Below, you'll find 10 tips for securing your network. Some are more effective than others at keeping hackers and freeloaders at bay, but all are useful in their own way.
Keep in mind that nothing can guarantee absolute security from hacking attempts, but these tips will make it harder for anyone to compromise your network and data. (For more Wi-Fi tips, check outhow to tell if your internet provider is throttling your Wi-Fiand ourtips on how to speed up your Wi-Fi connection).
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How to secure your home Wi-Fi network
Here are the basics for protecting your home Wi-Fi network. Keep reading for more information on each below.
1. Place your router in a central location.
2. Create a strong Wi-Fi password and change it often.
3. Change the default router login credentials.
4. Turn on firewall and Wi-Fi encryption.
5. Create a guest network.
6. Use a VPN.
7. Keep your router and devices up to date.
8. Disable remote router access.
9. Verify connected devices.
10. Upgrade to a WPA3 router.
Place your router in a central location
Strong network security starts with a smart setup. If possible, place your router at the center of your home. Routers send wireless signals in all directions, so strategically placing your router in a central location will help keep your connection to the confines of your home. As a bonus, it will likely also make for the best connection quality.
For example, if you have internet in an apartment where neighbors are immediately to the left and right of you, placing your router next to a shared wall could send a strong, and tempting, signal their way. Even if you aren't in an apartment, a good router can cast signals next door or across the street. Placing your router in a central location will help reduce how far those signals travel outside your home.
Create a strong Wi-Fi password and change it often
This should go without saying, but I'm still going to cover it to emphasize its importance. Creating a unique password for your Wi-Fi network is essential to maintaining a secure connection. Avoid easily guessed passwords or phrases, such as someone's name, birthdays, phone numbers or other common information. While simple Wi-Fi passwords make them easy to remember, they also make it easy for others to figure them out. (Here's how to access your router settings to update your Wi-Fi password.)
Be sure to change your password every six months or so or whenever you think your network security may have been compromised.
Change the default router login credentials
Along the same lines of password-protecting your Wi-Fi network, you'll also want to keep anyone from being able to directly access your router settings.
To do so, go ahead and change your router's admin name and password. You can log in to your router settings by typing its IP address into the URL bar, but most routers and providers have an app that lets you access the same settings and information.
Your router login credentials are separate from your Wi-Fi network name and password. If you aren't sure what the default is, you should be able to find it on the bottom of the router. Or, if it's been changed from the default somewhere along the way, here's how to access your router settings to update the username and password.
Turn on the firewall and Wi-Fi encryption
Most routers have a firewall to prevent outside hacking and Wi-Fi encryption to keep anyone from eavesdropping on the data sent back and forth between your router and connected devices. Both are typically active by default, but you'll want to check to ensure they're on.
Now that you know how to log in to your router settings, check to make sure the firewall and Wi-Fi encryption are enabled. If they're off for whatever reason, turn them on. Your network security will thank you.
Create a guest Wi-Fi network
"Can I get the Wi-Fi password?" is undoubtedly something all hosts have heard. Before sharing access to your main home network, consider creating a separate guest network for visitors. I'm not suggesting your guests will attempt anything nefarious with your main Wi-Fi connection, but their devices or anything they download while connected to your network could be infected with malware or viruses that target your network without them knowing it.
A guest network is also ideal for your IoT devices, such as Wi-Fi cameras, thermostats and smart speakers -- devices that may not hold a lot of sensitive information and are perhaps more easily hackable than a smarter device such as a computer or phone.
Use a VPN
There are a few reasons to use a good VPN, and network security is one of them. A virtual private network hides your IP address and Wi-Fi activity, including browsing data.
VPNs are probably more useful when connected to a public network, but they can still add a level of security and privacy to your home network. Some VPNs are better than others, but like anything, you often get what you pay for. Free VPN services are available, but paying a little extra (just a few bucks per month) will deliver a much better, more secure service.
Keep your router and devices up to date
Software updates always seem to pop up when you need to get online the most. While they can be annoying, they have a purpose, and it often includes security updates. When companies become aware of potential or exposed security vulnerabilities, they release updates and patches to minimize or eliminate the risk. You want to download those.
Keeping your router and connected devices current with the latest updates will help ensure you have the best protection against known malware and hacking attempts. Set your router to automatically update in the admin settings, if possible, and periodically check to make sure your router is up to date.
Disable remote router access
Remote router access allows anyone not directly connected to your Wi-Fi network to access the router settings. Unless you need to access your router while away from home (to check or change the configuration of a child's connected device, for example), there should be no reason to have remote access enabled.
You can disable remote access under the router's admin settings. Unlike other security measures, disabled remote router access may not be the default.
Verify connected devices
Frequently inspect the devices connected to your network and verify that you know what they are. If anything on there looks suspicious, disconnect it and change your Wi-Fi password. After changing your password, you'll have to reconnect all your previously connected devices, but any users or devices that are not authorized to use your network will get the boot.
Some devices, especially obscure IoT ones, may have odd default names of random numbers and letters you don't immediately recognize. If you encounter something like that when scrutinizing your connected devices, disconnect them. Later on, when you can't start your robot vacuum cleaner from your phone, you'll know that's what it was.
Upgrade to a WPA3 router
WPA3 is the latest security protocol for routers. All new routers should be equipped with WPA3, so if you buy a new router, you should have nothing to worry about. However, many people rent their routers directly from the provider, which may not include the most up-to-date equipment.
If your router was made before 2018, you might have a WPA2 device, which lacks the same security protocols as newer WPA3 devices. A quick search of your device's model should tell you when it came out and any specific features, such as whether it has WPA2 or WPA3. If you've got a router with WPA2, call your provider and negotiate for a better, more recent router.
Network security is not a guarantee
Again, even with the most recent and effective methods of protecting your home network, security will never be 100% certain. As long as there is the internet, hackers and cybercriminals will find ways to exploit it. But with the tips above, you can better keep your network secure from anyone trying to use your connection or access your data.
For more, check out how to find free Wi-Fi anywhere in the world and the ideal location for your router.
More Wi-Fi tips:
- Home Internet Cheat Sheet: Got Questions? Find Your Broadband Answers Here
- Slash Your Monthly Internet Bill: 8 Effective Tips to Save Money
- This Federal Benefit Could Save You Up to $75 on Your Home Internet Bill
- Best Internet Speed Tests of 2023: Where to Test Your Internet Speed
Click Manage Wireless Networks. The Manage Wireless Networks page opens, displaying a list of the networks within range. Next to your network name, if it says something such as Security: WEP or Security: WPA2, your network is protected.What steps should be taken to lock down a Wi-Fi network? ›
- Change the default name of your home Wi-Fi. ...
- Make your wireless network password unique and strong. ...
- Enable network encryption. ...
- Turn off network name broadcasting. ...
- Keep your router's software up to date. ...
- Make sure you have a good firewall. ...
- Use VPNs to access your network.
When choosing from among WEP, WPA, WPA2 and WPA3 wireless security protocols, experts agree WPA3 is best for Wi-Fi security. As the most up-to-date wireless encryption protocol, WPA3 is the most secure choice.Does turning off Wi-Fi stop hackers? ›
When in doubt, simply disable your Wi-Fi radio when you're not using it, as this will prevent most Wi-Fi-based attacks. By taking the steps above, it's easy to reduce the risk of your Wi-Fi device joining a malicious network automatically, being tracked between locations, or leaking personal information.Can someone access my home Wi-Fi? ›
Can a Wi‑Fi router be hacked? It's entirely possible that your router might have been hacked and you don't even know it. By using a technique called DNS (Domain Name Server) hijacking, hackers can breach the security of your home Wi‑Fi and potentially cause you a great deal of harm.What are the signs that your home Wi-Fi has been hacked? ›
- Router login failure. Having trouble logging into your router's admin settings is an immediate sign of having your router hacked. ...
- Slow internet speed. ...
- Browser redirects. ...
- Suspicious network activity. ...
- Unfamiliar software downloads. ...
- Session hijacking. ...
- Ransomware messages. ...
- Fake antivirus notifications.
You use that signal to connect to the internet. But unless your network is password protected, any device within range — whether yours, your guest's, or a stranger's — can pull the signal from the air and use your internet connection.What is the strongest form of home network security? ›
WPA2 uses the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) which is also used by the U.S. government to protect classified documents. This is the strongest level of security you can provide for your home wifi network.Which Internet security is better WPA2 or WPA3? ›
WPA3 provides a more secure connection than WPA2, but many WiFi devices might not yet detect WPA3 and support only WPA2. Similarly, WPA2 provides a more secure connection than WPA, but some legacy WiFi devices do not detect WPA2 and support only WPA.What does weak security on home Wi-Fi mean? ›
However, you should not panic; the weak security notification is a common phenomenon and doesn't mean anything has been compromised yet. If you see a “Weak Security” message in your Wi-Fi settings, your network may be on an older and less secure encryption platform.
Can Someone See My Internet History On Their WIFI? Yes. The WiFi owner has access to the admin panel from the WiFi router, meaning they can see the browsing information performed on their WiFi network. In addition, routers see log information, including when and what you did on your computer.Can someone see what I do on my phone through Wi-Fi? ›
If you're not careful, almost anyone can see your internet activity. Wi-Fi admins can see your activity through router logs, while websites, apps, ISPs, search engines, and advertisers all have means of tracking what you do online. Your devices and browsers keep records of what you do on them too.Can someone steal your information through Wi-Fi? ›
By using a technique called DNS (Domain Name Server) hijacking, hackers can breach the security of your home Wi‑Fi and potentially cause you a great deal of harm. They can redirect your traffic to a website run by them, causing you to unwittingly give your credit card number or Facebook login credentials to a criminal.What do you dial to see if your phone is hacked? ›
Every phone has a unique Media Access Control address, commonly known as the MAC address, which helps identify it when connected to a network. If you suspect you've been hacked, dialing *#*#232338#*#* and comparing the MAC address with your network can help you find out.How do I know if my IP address has been hacked? ›
- You can't update your system. ...
- Your computer runs slower than usual. ...
- A big-name company was hacked. ...
- You notice unusual disk activity. ...
- Your antivirus software becomes disabled. ...
- Strange things are happening onscreen.
If a hacker gets a hold of the password to your Wi-Fi network, they can use your internet connection to do whatever they want. This can range from using your data to stream videos and download files, to performing illegal activity. Also, getting onto your router is the first step to accessing the devices on it.How do I check my router security settings? ›
Access the Wi-Fi connection settings. Find your wireless network on the list of available networks. Tap the network name or info button to pull up the network configuration. Check the network configuration for the security type.How can I make my Wi-Fi more secure? ›
- Change the default name and password of your home network. ...
- Limit access to your wireless network. ...
- Create a home guest network. ...
- Turn on WiFi network encryption. ...
- Turn on your router firewall. ...
- Turn off your WiFi network when you leave home. ...
- Update your router's firmware.
Turn on encryption
Go to your router's settings and find the security options. Look for the WPA2 Personal setting. If you don't see that, select WPA Personal (but this could be a sign that your router is outdated and more vulnerable). Set the encryption type to AES.
A secure URL should begin with “https” rather than “http.” The “s” in “https” stands for secure, which indicates that the site is using a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificate. This lets you know that all your communication and data is encrypted as it passes from your browser to the website's server.
Ideally, you don't want to give people access to your main WiFi network. This will give their laptop or phone access to all the devices in your home, which means they—or any malware installed on their system—can compromise sensitive data on your personal devices.What are the dangers of using Wi-Fi without password? ›
- Identity theft via online victim profiling.
- Infecting your device with malware.
- Stealing your passwords.
- Snooping for confidential data.
- Business Email Compromise.
- Ransomware attacks.
- Session hijacking.
- Taking over your online accounts.
A common cause of reduced Wi-Fi performance is dense walls and furniture in between routers and wireless devices. In addition to dense walls and objects, conductive materials can block Wi-Fi signals the most, causing Wi-Fi not to work in some buildings.What happens when you turn off Wi-Fi? ›
Turning Wi-Fi off when you're not using it improves network security and frees up some bandwidth for your wired devices. Maybe you don't want to disable your Wi-Fi access completely, but would like to hide your Wi-Fi name so only people who know it have access to your Wi-Fi.How do I limit the number of devices connected to my Wi-Fi? ›
- Launch a web browser from a computer or mobile device that is connected to your router's network.
- Enter the router user name and password. ...
- Select ADVANCED > Security > Access Control.
- Select the Turn on Access Control check box.
The best Wi-Fi security option for your router is WPA2-AES. You might see WPA2-TKIP as an option, but it's not as secure. WPA2-TKIP is, however, the second-most secure — followed by WPA, and then WEP.Which has the strongest wireless security? ›
Presently, WPA3 is the strongest wireless network security system. It supersedes WEP, WPA, and WPA2, in providing security upgrades and wireless network security protection. WPA3 has better data encryption and key sharing capabilities than its predecessors (Sagers, 2021).What type of devices can help you secure your home network? ›
A home firewall protects the devices connected to your network from intruders on the internet. They effectively act as a one-way digital barrier by blocking access to your network from devices on the internet while simultaneously allowing devices on your network to connect to devices on the internet.Should my Wi-Fi be WPA or WPA2? ›
Generally, WPA2 is the best choice, even though it consumes more processing power to protect your network. Learn more about Wi-Fi security options and how encryption tools like VPNs can protect you even further.How do I enable WPA3 on my router? ›
To enable WPA3 Transition Mode, navigate to Wireless > Configure > Access Control > Security and set the WPA encryption selection to WPA3 Transition Mode.
Consider Upgrading From WPA2 to WPA3
This will depend on your devices' and network's compatibility. You'll have to check the documentation of your devices to see if they're compatible. But in the meantime, WPA2 with a good firewall setting and antivirus software on your devices is pretty good security.
- Get your router's IP address through the ipconfig command. ...
- Get your router's IP address in Windows. ...
- Sign into your router. ...
- Look for firmware update setting. ...
- Check for an update. ...
- Let the update install.
The flaw, known as KRACK, affects WPA2, a security protocol widely used in most modern Wi-Fi devices. In some cases, a hacker could exploit KRACK to inject malware such as ransomware into websites, according to KU Leuven's Mathy Vanhoef, the researcher who discovered the WPA vulnerability.Why does my iPhone say my home Wi-Fi has weak security? ›
If your Apple device shows a privacy warning or weak-security warning about a Wi-Fi network, that network could expose information about your device. If you administer the Wi-Fi network, we recommend that that you update the settings of your Wi-Fi router to meet or exceed the security standards in this article.Can someone see your texts through Wi-Fi? ›
Most messengers and chat apps use end-to-end encryption to secure text messages. End-to-end encryption encrypts your texts on your phone before they are sent over the internet. The texts are then decrypted on the recipient's end. Prying eyes won't be able to read your texts on Wi-Fi even if they intercept them.Can someone see my Internet history if I use their Wi-Fi with incognito? ›
Doesn't delete all browsing data – Even though incognito mode doesn't save any cookies, login data, and other site information from the computer after the mode, the visited websites might still be monitored and logged when you are online.Can police see your search history? ›
Do the police monitor Google searches? While police do not actively monitor Google searches, they are able to obtain a warrant for your search history if they have probable cause to do so.Can someone see what I'm looking at on my phone? ›
Long story short: yes, someone can monitor your phone to keep tabs on all your activities. This includes phone calls, texts, browser activity, photos, videos, apps, and more. This is often done via spyware, a form of malware designed for monitoring a device's activity remotely.How can I see who's using my WiFi? ›
- Open the Google Home app .
- Tap Favorites Wifi .
- At the top, tap Devices.
- Tap a specific device and a tab to find additional details. Speed: Real time usage is how much data your device is currently using.
Yes, if you are using your work's WiFi network, your employer can track your internet activity regardless of which device you choose to use. They will be able to see all the activity on the company's network, including that which was conducted on any personal devices connected to the network.
- Do connect to secured public networks whenever possible. ...
- Don't access personal bank accounts, or sensitive personal data, on unsecured public networks. ...
- Don't leave your laptop, tablet, or smartphone unattended in a public place. ...
- Don't shop online when using public Wi-Fi.
- Enter the router's IP address in your internet browser. ...
- Log in to your router's configuration page. ...
- Look for the "Wireless," "Wireless Security," "WLAN," or "Wi-Fi Setting" option. ...
- Enter the new password in the "Wi-Fi Password" textbox. ...
- Enter a new name (SSID) for the Wi-Fi network.
Check your router's network map for unfamiliar devices. Look for unwanted devices in a network monitoring app. Check your router's lights for wireless activity. Go through the router logs to look for suspicious activity.Is home Wi-Fi or data more secure? ›
Connecting to a cellular network is absolutely more safe than using WiFi. Most WiFi hotspots aren't secure because the data sent over the internet isn't encrypted. When you use a secured WiFi, you can encrypt your data, but it's still less reliable and automatic than cellular signal.Can a neighbor mess with your Wi-Fi? ›
Your Neighbor's Network
When many networks are located closely together, for example in apartment buildings, this will affect the wireless capacity. For equipment on the 2.4 GHz band, neighboring networks are the single largest source of interference on the wireless network.
The best Wi-Fi security option for your router is WPA2-AES. You might see WPA2-TKIP as an option, but it's not as secure. WPA2-TKIP is, however, the second-most secure — followed by WPA, and then WEP.Should I turn off data at home? ›
Leave mobile data on and your battery will drain quicker than if it was off. There are a few reasons why this happens. First, your phone will be constantly searching for signal. If you're in an area with particularly poor signal, things only get worse, as your phone consumes more power while searching.What is the difference between internet and Wi-Fi? ›
WiFi is a wireless technology that establishes a wireless network to allow computers and devices with the required wireless capacity to communicate via radio waves. The Internet, on the other hand, is a global network of networks where computers communicate with each other via Internet Protocol.