As the Internet of Things (IoT) expands and we introduce more smart devices to our homes, including refrigerators, thermostats, locks and voice-activated speakers, it becomes more important than ever to secure your Wi-Fi network and protect your home’s devices from hackers.
Thankfully, your Wi-Fi router and smart home devices include security features that can guard these digital entry points into your home. Follow these tips to harden your network security and protect you from intrusions.
Start with Your Wi-Fi Router
Think of your Wi-Fi router as the front door to your home’s network security system and each of your devices as windows.
Because all devices link to your home’s Wi-Fi, begin by securing your router. Follow these steps to make sure your router is optimized to protect you:
- Change the router’s default name and password. Hackers can find default router names and passwords easily. Ask your internet service provider (ISP) for the steps to change your router’s default settings. Don’t use names or passwords with the router’s brand or your personal information. Log out once you’ve made updates.
- Keep your router up to date. You can check with your ISP and ask if it provides automatic updates to your router. If it doesn’t, set a calendar reminder once every two months to check for updates manually.
- Set up a guest network. Modern routers now allow users to create a guest network. Take advantage of this feature and connect all your smart home devices to your main network, and direct visitors to your guest network. Unfortunately, many devices can unknowingly download malware, and guests can accidentally “infect” your home network. You can reduce this risk by creating a separate admin Wi-Fi network for your devices.
- Encrypt your network. This should be a clearly marked setting on your router. You’re looking for a WPA3 Personal encryption option. Enabling encryption will make it harder for hackers to access your personal information as you browse or use your smart home devices.
Secure Each Smart Device
After securing your router, explore the security features available on each of your devices. Each setting might look different, depending on the device and its function. These are the general settings you’ll need to look for:
- Change the default username and password. Default usernames and passwords for smart home devices are accessible to anyone with internet access, so it’s a good idea to change them.
- Turn on two-factor authentication. Enabling two-factor authentication requires you to enter a password plus a code sent to another device (or thumbprint) to log in. It’s a simple, effective way to protect your personal information.
- Keep your device updated. Frequent updates can be irritating, but keeping your software and firmware current is important. Manufacturers and app creators constantly add new security updates to prevent hackers from accessing your data.
- Enable encryption and/or a passcode lockout. If you have sensitive data on your device(s) and setting a passcode doesn’t automatically encrypt the data, enabling encryption—and a passcode lockout, if available—will help protect your information if the device is hacked or stolen. (Note: Your device might be encrypted by default. For example, setting a passcode on an iPhone or Android automatically encrypts the device’s contents. Check with the manufacturer or search online to determine if your device already encrypts your data.)
- Disconnect what you don’t use. Some older devices may no longer receive automatic security updates unless they’re used often. Consider turning them off and putting them away until you find another use for them, so they don’t become unprotected digital entry points to your home.