Cyber Security Month Tech Tip #6
Welcome and Happy October and Happy Cyber Security Awareness Month. During October you will see a number of people and organizations share helpful tips online that promote Cyber Security Awareness. Billions of people use the Internet in some form everyday. A overwhelming majority of those people take their digital security for granted. We must always protect our online accounts, use firewalls to keep our computers and mobile devices clean and intruder free, and be careful not to share our location though social networks and photographs we take and share online. But one place we as users of the Internet forget to care for and secure the most is at home.
Your Home Router
Your home Internet router is probably the busiest and most forgotten appliance in your home. All your home Internet traffic passes though it and hopefully all the bad Internet traffic trying to get into your home network is stopped by it. The home router is on usually twenty-four hours a day and is constantly working. And in the age of social networking, video streaming, file and picture share, video gaming along with securing your home network it is always working hard. So the best first tip for home routers is very simple. Get a good router.
You Get What You Pay For
Rule of thumb when you are dealing with the Internet. No matter how many devices you have on the inside of your network and how much traffic you create to access the Internet, the Internet is always trying to get into your network. And I mean all the Internet. So the best way to protect all your personal devices and data is to get a modern up-to-date router. It is really tempting to find a cheap and small router even as temporary solution because you think you will be able to get a better one in a week or two. Trust me and don't do it. Those devices are usually underpowered, lack even the most obvious features and options, and more often than not way behind on updates from the most current Internet threats and vulnerabilities. My two favorite places to go for an updated list of good router reviews are on Tom's Hardware and The Wirecutter.
Update Your Router
If your home router is worth its salt the manufacturer of the hardware will put out updates quickly and often. Nothing is worse that having a router that hasn't been updated in months. That is usually a good sign that you need new hardware. There is always a new attack or newly discovered vulnerability found when it comes to routers and firewalls. So if your router's system software/firmware has not been updated in at least a season your hardware may be end of life and out of support.
Secure Your Router
Logging into the the management console of your home router can be a very intimidating ordeal. But understanding and properly configuring your hardware is important. You should only have features turned on that you fully understand and need. Options like Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) and Universal Plug-N-Play are dangerous to leave running. While it is safer to turn them off you should consult your home network device documentation to see if it will interfere with any of your streaming devices, printers or computers before doing so. But a good thing to keep in mind is if you don't know if you need it, turn it off and see what breaks.
It is a good practice to also create long and complex passwords for your router login and for devices to access your wireless network. Just to recap always at least fourteen characters with two capitals, two numbers, and one special character. Also change the default SSID for your wireless networks. Using default settings can cause major confusion if you and a neighbor have the same network device with the same default settings. Both your devices and your neighbors devices will always try to join the wrong network because they have the same name. And lastly when securing your wireless networks use the strongest form of Wifi Protected Access (WPA) your router is capable of. Always read both the printed and digital documentation for your router. Most questions your have can be answered with the information they provide. And try to make it a habit to log into your router once a week or so. Just so you get use to logging into it and checking if everything is working as expected.
Remember to have a safe and secure Cyber Security Awareness Month #cybersecuritymonth for all of October. Share and pass along any tips you find or think of yourself.