Make Your Network More Secure

We all want to avoid computer problems, which means keeping both your computers and networks free of malware. Here are a few tips for ways to keep your network more secure.

Computer Security

Use Your Computer’s Anti-Virus Software

Your router and the computers in your network are in a symbiotic relationship. They rely on each other to remain malware-free. If your computer becomes infected with a virus, it could easily affect your router and network which would then allow every other computer in your network to be at risk.

It’s best to play it safe and ensure that your computer’s anti-virus software is up to date and that it periodically scans.

Learn how and when to identify secure sites

Websites use a secure connection called SSL (Secure Socket Layer) when the information that’s being sent is very sensitive and needs to be protected from people who’d like to spy on it or modify it. If you’re simply looking up the start times for a movie, there’s no need to use a secure connection, but any type of online banking or e-commerce certainly demands it.

A web site shows that it’s secure when you see the little closed padlock in the browser’s address bar. This means that the identity of the organization running the site has been confirmed, and that all of the data sent is encrypted, so that no one can view it as it travels across the internet.

Get into the habit of looking for these signs for secure sites whenever you work with sensitive information.

Network Security

Change your router’s password

It’s important to understand the issues surrounding passwords on your router. Take them seriously, and choose a password that will be difficult for anyone to guess.

Disable Remote Administration

Remote Administration is quite dangerous, and should only be used for extreme cases. Otherwise, you’re well advised to disable it.

Disable Wireless Administration

Wireless Administration is a convenience offered to allow you to administer your router’s configuration from a wireless device instead of a computer directly plugged into the router.

The concern is that if this were enabled, a guest using your network or someone driving by in a car who got access to your WiFi signal could configure your router if he were able to get the password.

Don’t use Port Forwarding

Port forwarding should be avoided if at all possible. If it must be used, at least do it with an understanding of what’s going on.

Update Your Firmware

It’s worth knowing whether your router has updated firmware, and if so install it.

Consider using 3rd Party Firmware

Some routers will allow you to install 3rd party open source router software. If your router will allow it, this software is generally considered to be more secure than stock router firmware, and often comes with a wider variety of features.

Check your DNS

Learn where on your router the DNS settings are made, and periodically check them. If you’ve never set them, ensure that they haven’t been set, and if you have set them ensure that they haven’t changed.

Recognize that your DNS settings are going to be a major target for hackers, and by compromising them, all of the computers in your home become compromised.

Wireless Security

Use strong security

Understand the security aspects of your wireless connection and use them properly. Using wireless security prevents unauthorized people from using your network, which is important. Choosing the right type of wireless security will determine how secure your system really is. The choice is often dictated by what your router supports, but generally it’s one or all three of these:

  • WEP – an older standard that’s generally considered easy to break into. Don’t use WEP if there’s an alternative.
  • WPA – better than WEP, but still considered to be a bit on the not-so-secure side
  • WPA2 – the most secure of the possible choices. Choose this one.

Remember – once you’ve enabled wireless security on your router to also set a strong password to keep it safe.

Guest Access

If your router supports it, consider enabling guest access for your friends and family who only need to use your WiFi connection every so often.  By giving them guest access you accomplish 2 things:

  • They’ll be using a guest password so that you can keep your main wireless password a secret
  • Guest access will prevent them from doing some sensitive things such as accessing the router’s administration control panel.

Keep Informed

It’s important to keep yourself informed and follow what’s happening in home network security. A good place to start is the RouterCheck Blog. Other websites we like can be found here.