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How many suspicious devices are connected to your Wi-Fi network How to Check Your Wi-Fi Network for Suspicious Devices How to Check Your Wi-Fi Network for Suspicious Devices Are you worried that strangers or hackers might be on your Wi-Fi network? Here's how you can check and how to do something about it. Read More ? Or worse yet, is someone sniffing and eavesdropping on your Wi-Fi traffic, stealing your passwords and credit card numbers? Would you even know if somebody was?

Truth is, unless you’ve read an article like this before and took action, your wireless network likely has several vulnerabilities. And if exploited, these vulnerabilities could mean something as “harmless” as a neighbor stealing your bandwidth, or as dangerous as a hacker stealing your identity 6 Warning Signs Of Digital Identity Theft You Shouldn't Ignore 6 Warning Signs Of Digital Identity Theft You Shouldn't Ignore Identity theft isn't too rare of an occurrence these days, yet we often fall into the trap of thinking that it'll always happen to "someone else". Don't ignore the warning signs. Read More .

Here are seven easy steps that you can take to lock down your wireless network security — and it won’t take more than five minutes, I promise. Taking a breach from Facebook or Reddit for one moment could protect you from many headaches down the road!

1. Always Access Admin Panel on Wired

Logging into your router’s administration panel is as simple as opening your web browser, typing in an IP address (or sometimes a URL), and entering the router’s admin username and password. This is all fine and dandy — unless you’re doing so on a wireless connection.

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Image Credit: pelfophoto via Shutterstock

When logging into the admin panel over wireless, those login credentials are sent over the air, which offers potential for interception. If you only ever log in while connected by Ethernet, you can eliminate this risk.

In fact, you should disable remote access completely in order to require a wired connection in order to tweak anything. This way even if a hacker manages to connect wirelessly and break your password, they won’t be able to change anything and you won’t be subject to a random hijacking.

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2. Change the Default Admin Login

Every router comes with a default username/password combination for the administration panel. This is how you log in the very first time you set up the router. The username and password will also revert back to their defaults whenever you reset the router to factory settings.

You absolutely MUST change these ASAP.

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Did you know that there are websites out there where you can search for default admin credentials by router model? Just check out RouterPasswords.com and DefaultPasswords.in. This means that if a hacker knows what kind of router you have, and you haven’t changed the admin credentials, they can break in with zero effort.

Even if they don’t know what kind of router you have, they can simply brute force an attack by running through all known admin username/password combinations. So changing these should be the very first thing you do with a new router 10 Things You Must Do With a Brand New Router 10 Things You Must Do With a Brand New Router Whether you just bought your first ever router or upgraded your old one to a new one, there are several crucial first steps that you should take right away to set up properly. Read More .

3. Change the Default SSID

Another setting you should change right away: your router’s SSID (i.e. the public name that shows up when you’re looking at in-range Wi-Fi networks).

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Many routers come with default SSIDs that can give away its brand and/or model. For example, some Linksys routers have default SSIDs that look like Linksys#####. And it’s no different for Cisco, Belkin, Netgear, TP-Link — they all have router models that come with default SSIDs that give away their brands.

Remember, if a hacker knows what kind of router you have, it becomes a little easier for them to break in. We recommend changing your SSID right away, and when you do, you might even consider making it a funny one 50 Funny Wi-Fi Names for Your Network SSID 50 Funny Wi-Fi Names for Your Network SSID A good Wi-Fi name makes it easy to find your own network. A great network name will also entertain your neighbors. Read More .

4. Encrypt Using WPA2 and AES

Encryption is a must-use feature on all routers 10 Crucial Features to Use in Your Wireless Router Setup at Home 10 Crucial Features to Use in Your Wireless Router Setup at Home Most wireless routers are equipped with a handful of amazing features that you probably aren't taking advantage of. Here are some of the more useful ones to start exploring right now. Read More . Neglecting to use encryption is like leaving all of your doors and windows open all of the time — everything you say or do can be seen and heard by anyone who cares enough to look or listen.

Seriously, it only takes about 30 seconds to enable encryption in your router settings. And when you do, make sure you use WPA2 Personal mode if it’s available, otherwise use WPA Personal. No matter what, do NOT use WEP mode because it’s weak and easily cracked.

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Once WPA2/WPA mode is set, make sure you’re using AES encryption instead of TKIP. TKIP is better than nothing, but AES is more recent and more secure so prefer it whenever you can. Note that AES + TKIP encryption is effectively as bad as TKIP only, so stick to AES only.

Lastly, change your WPA2/WPA key (i.e. the wireless password). Make it strong! That means avoiding these common password mistakes 7 Password Mistakes That Will Likely Get You Hacked 7 Password Mistakes That Will Likely Get You Hacked The worst passwords of 2015 have been released, and they're quite worrying. But they show that it's absolutely critical to strengthen your weak passwords, with just a few simple tweaks. Read More . Aim for a minimum of 12 characters with a healthy mix of lowercase, uppercase, numbers, and special characters (e.g. @, !, %, $, etc).

5. Enable the Router Firewall

A firewall examines incoming network data and blocks anything that’s deemed unsafe. Most routers have some kind of built-in firewall feature — most likely SPI Firewall, which compares parts of all incoming network data against a database and only allows it in if it passes the test.

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It’s probably enabled by default, but check and make sure it’s on. Note that this may interfere with certain online games. If it does, you can get around it by using port forwarding.

Also note that a router firewall isn’t enough on its own. Sometimes malicious data can get through undetected, which is why you should also install a software firewall Which Free Firewall For Windows Is Best For You? Which Free Firewall For Windows Is Best For You? We place emphasis on antivirus and malware removal, but don't ignore firewalls. Let's take a look at the best free Windows firewalls, comparing ease of setup, ease of use, and availability of features. Read More on your device as a second layer of defense.

6. Disable WPS and UPnP Features

WPS, or Wi-Fi Protected Setup, makes it easy to add new devices to a network. All you have to do is press the WPS button on the router, then press the WPS button on the device, and voila — connection established. Unfortunately, you should disable WPS because it can be cracked quite easily.

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UPnP, or Universal Plug and Play, allows newly-connected devices to be immediately discoverable by other devices on the same network. Unfortunately, the UPnP design is full of glaring security holes and so should be disabled as soon as possible.

If you can’t disable either of these features, then it may be time for you to consider buying a new wireless router Which Brands Are Best When Buying a Wireless Router? Which Brands Are Best When Buying a Wireless Router? Not all wireless routers are made equal -- and the same is true for router brands. Here are some of the more reliable brands along with a few that aren't so much. Read More .

7. Keep the Router Firmware Updated

You have to keep your software up to date — that’s one of the most oft-repeated pieces of advice from security experts. This also applies to the software that drives your router, which is called firmware.

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Outdated firmware is bad for two reasons:

  1. It may have unpatched security holes that can be exploited, and
  2. newer firmware can introduce extra features or improvements that can impact overall security.

Therefore, it’s in your best interest to keep firmware updated.

Every few months, you should check your router manufacturer’s website for firmware updates to your model. If so, download the file and apply it in your router settings. Fortunately, you won’t have to do this often because firmware updates tend to be infrequent.

What’s Your Biggest Wireless Woe?

It probably took you a few minutes to read all of the above, and it shouldn’t take long to actually apply the changes. And now that your router is secured, you should think about changing up any bad data habits you might have Change Your Bad Habits & Your Data Will Be More Secure Change Your Bad Habits & Your Data Will Be More Secure Read More .

One more note on wireless routers: is your Wi-Fi speed unusually slow? Check out these speed-boosting tips 4 Reasons Why Your Wi-Fi Is So Slow (And How to Fix Them) 4 Reasons Why Your Wi-Fi Is So Slow (And How to Fix Them) When you rely on Wi-Fi, speed issues can hurt -- and Wi-Fi speed issues aren't always easy to diagnose. Here are some things you ought to check. Read More . And if you’re experiencing a lot of interference and poor signal quality, you may want to look into Wi-Fi range extenders Wi-Fi Extenders of 2016: Which One Is Right For You? Wi-Fi Extenders of 2016: Which One Is Right For You? What are the best Wi-Fi extenders out there? We've rounded up three of the best performing, cheapest, and best value wi-fi extenders for 2016. But which one is right for you? Read More or powerline adapters 8 Things About Powerline Adapters You Need to Know First 8 Things About Powerline Adapters You Need to Know First Powerline ethernet adapters basically turn regular electrical outlets into ethernet outlets. As useful as this is, there are some things you should know before using them for your own home network. Read More .

How is your wireless network security at home? Which of these tips were new to you? Know of any other tips we missed? Let us know in a comment down below!

Image Credits: Igor Normann/Shutterstock

  1. The Inner Geek
    October 17, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    How about not broadcasting your SSID at all? I only broadcast the 'guest wifi' SSID.

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