Protect Your Home Network against Hacking Attacks
Back in the day, your grandparents would have probably laughed condescendingly at the idea of a talking fridge. Or at a smart coffee machine. Or at a full-on AI assistant taking care of your home environment.
However, technology has rapidly evolved nowadays, and smart homes are considered a common thing in many countries. Homeowners benefit from increased functionality, interactivity, and comfort while setting up their homes through intelligent home networks.
Nonetheless, all handy gadgets within your home (cameras, smart speakers, microphones, plugs, appliances) could turn into entry points for the entire system if left unprotected. In an age where IoT gains more and more popularity, most people rely on the in-built security tools of devices without a second thought.
Especially during a pandemic state, smart home networks make it easier for people to do their jobs and feel comfortable in their homes. However, having apps, devices, and appliances interconnected may cause severe cybersecurity issues.
To prevent unauthorized access to their files, data, and devices, users should implement robust home network protection. We’d discuss antimalware and antivirus software, scheduled data backups, router protection, device volume approach, and more.
We hope this article will be a good place to start fortifying your defenses against potential cyber intruders.
Let’s go over it together.
Table of Contents
Protect the Wi-Fi
Most households use Wi-Fi to connect different devices and apps to their network. No wiring, just a router or two radiating an internet signal to all devices that need it.
There are a few aspects to cover when setting up your router protection.
The first one is its access credentials – the account name and password. Now, you can leave the account name unchanged from its factory settings, but many routers come with weak passwords to enable easy access upon installation. (think 1-through-9, “0000”, or “admin”)
Your first task is to change the generic router password to a strong one. The best passwords contain 12 or more characters comprising upper- and lower-case letters, special symbols, and numbers.
Furthermore, almost every router has a specific brand and model name. Unless you change the way those are displayed, hackers can see the make and model of your router and compromise it more easily. You can consider renaming your SSID to cover the specifics of your router, making it harder for attackers to exploit any of its potential weaknesses.
Additionally, it’s good to know that most routers have in-built encryption features. However, those features are often turned off by default until users activate them.
There are four primary types of Wi-Fi router encryption aimed at protecting your whole system:
- WPA, which stands for Wired Protected Access
- WEP, which stands for Wired Equivalent Privacy
- WPA2, which stands for Wi-Fi Protected Access 2, and
- WPA3, which stands for Wi-Fi Protected Access 3
WPA2 and WPA3 are the most secure options out of the four, as they are the newest of the pack. Older WPA and WEP versions can fall victim to brute force attacks.
Additionally to encryption, you can add a Guest Network on your router to ensure no device that enters your home through friends or family (if compromised) can infect your system. What’s more, you can implement a network scanner service to track and monitor all activity on your network.
Lastly, make sure to replace outdated routers every once in a while. Even with the best preparation, older devices perform more poorly against newer, more sophisticated cyber threats.
Come Up with Unique Passwords
Your router is not the only part of your network benefiting from a strong password. All devices, apps, and services in your home system deserve to be well-protected via unique passcodes.
Now, let’s say you come up with a complicated password, long, with many diverse symbols – even if it’s the most secure password ever, it’s best not to use it for all accounts and devices. Yes, it would be easier to remember it, but if a hacker somehow gets their hands on it, they’d gain access to all devices and accounts you operate.
If you don’t want to waste time coming up with new passwords, you can always use randomly-generated passes. (Chrome has such a function) The downside is that your browser would have the critical job of remembering all passwords. If it gets compromised, an attacker can hijack all of your passwords through a single breach.
To avoid such a mess, you can install two-factor authentication to back up all solid passwords. Having an extra authentication step means a password is not enough to compromise your system. The intruders would also need to have access to your phone or authentication app.
Consider Using a VPN
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are primarily used to ensure privacy on the internet. It encrypts your data during browsing so that hackers wouldn’t be aware of your online activity and location.
Additionally, VPN encryption covers your router as well – even if your router’s encryption is compromised, VPN would still hide your system’s essentials properly.
Keep Software and Firmware Updated
Initiating regular software updates ensures your apps and programs are optimally patched and, thus, less liable to cyberattacks.
Software includes all apps, programs, operating systems, as well as your router’s firmware. Some routers allow users to search for firmware updates manually, while other can enable automatic updates. An older version of firmware may present attackers with an exploitable entry point.
While patches do their best to fix software vulnerabilities, sometimes, that’s not enough to keep attackers at bay. That’s why it’s best to combine regular patching with a comprehensive cybersecurity solution.
Seasoned cybersecurity providers can aid in patch management, antivirus scanning, malware detection and quarantine, real-time threat monitoring, smart alerts, data backups, and more.
Back-Up Your Data Regularly
System backup is a crucial element in any well-protected home network. Regular, scheduled, potentially automated system backup.
The thing is, even the most secured systems can suffer from a breach. Even iPad backup is mandatory. It may be a network malfunction or a highly elaborate hacker attack; no matter the cause, it’s vital to have backed-up copies of your data in two or more separate locations.
For frequent backup options (daily, weekly), you can use a cloud service to keep your files on a separate system. Most modern cloud storage providers offer intuitive backup options, high-tier encryption (AES-256), and enhanced cybersecurity features.
For major backups (monthly, yearly), it’d be easier to rely on physical storage.
Physical media carriers are safe from online attacks, as they are offline. If you want to ensure they don’t come in touch with the internet, you can disconnect devices during backup and reconnect them only after you’ve unplugged the external drive. Any external hard drive can come in handy for such a backup.
Retire Old and Rarely Used Devices
Calculating the risk-to-benefit factor for every device is critical to keeping an optimized home system.
Many manufacturers stop issuing patches for older devices, rendering them unprotected in the face of evolving cyber threats. You may have a special connection to your first router, but you can consider retiring it if there’s no longer a patch service supporting it.
Additionally, modern smart devices enable users to connect almost anything to the internet. Maybe rethink how hard you need the fridge willing to do karaoke with you or the thermostat consulting with famous meteorologists on how to keep your house warm and comfy.
Such options make everyday life a bit more quirky, but all connected devices require monitoring and protection. More devices having access to the internet elevates the risk of a breach on your system. If you optimize your device volume, you’d have to monitor fewer entry points, minimizing the exposure to a successful attack.
To top it off, you can turn your system off when you’re about to go out of town. Naturally, you can leave security cameras and the video doorbell active, but all else can also use a break while you’re gone.
Use a Firewall
A firewall is essentially a one-way barrier for digital interactions. It lets your devices engage content on the internet but blocks unwanted content from engaging your system.
Most routers will come to you with firewall protection enabled, but you need to make sure that’s the case. If your router lacks a firewall feature, it’s best to install a robust firewall solution to protect your system from end to end.
Disable Remote Home System Access
Most modern routers have in-built remote-access features to make the process more straightforward.
That’s convenient if you need to regularly access your system when you’re out of your home. However, if you mainly use your system at home, you can disable remote access protocols entirely. You can easily do that from the router’s settings panel. With remote access disabled, you reduce the risk of attackers trying to tamper with your router without your knowledge.
If some of your devices rely on remote access to operate correctly, you can select them as exceptions and enable such access to them.
We know home systems are unique to different users. However, we hope this article enables a more straightforward protection implementation on your entire system.
Stay updated and stay secure!
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