5 Ways to Check the Security of Your Internet Connection
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With so many potential weak points in a network, it’s hard to know if everything is properly secured. Is your connection secure, and how would you know where the flaws lie?

Here’s how to check if your network is secure so you can have peace of mind.

1. Test Your Firewall for Weaknesses

The first port of call for checking your internet security is the firewall. The firewall’s main job is to protect the ports on your computer from unwanted visitors. As such, it’s a good idea to test these ports to ensure unauthorized connections can’t creep through.

Fortunately, you don’t need to pay a hacker to attack your firewall. Services such as ShieldUp! prod at your computer’s ports and report back if it breaches your defenses. If your firewall doesn’t protect you, it’s worth trying a more secure one. We covered the top firewall programs for you to consider 7 Top Firewall Programs to Consider for Your Computer's Security 7 Top Firewall Programs to Consider for Your Computer's Security Firewalls are crucial for modern computer security. Here are your best options and which one is right for you. Read More , so be sure to check them out if your current one fails you.

2. Test Your Antivirus Strength

Antivirus software secures your downloads to ensure nothing malicious slips onto your system. As a result, it’s a good idea to ensure it’s active and doing its job properly. A poor antivirus won’t catch threats as they appear and will let them infect your computer.

To safely test an antivirus, you can download an EICAR file. EICAR files are harmless by themselves, but antiviruses are trained to detect it as if it were a virus. The EICAR file can be downloaded on its own, or bundled up in layers of ZIP files in an effort to hide it from your antivirus. This makes EICAR files a great way to test your antivirus without exposing your PC to actual threats.

We covered more ways to check in the ways to safely test your antivirus 5 Ways to Safely Test Your Antivirus Software 5 Ways to Safely Test Your Antivirus Software Is your antivirus software secure and effective? Here's how to test it and see for yourself. Read More . If you’re wondering if your antivirus is up to par, be sure to try some of those methods.

3. Check Your Protocol While Browsing

A URL secured by the HTTPS protocol
Image Credit: Jirsak/Depositphotos

When you send data to a website that uses the HTTP protocol, it’s sent as what’s called “plaintext.” This means there’s nothing that encrypts the data between you and the target server. People can snoop on what you’re sending and note any private information. This makes HTTP dangerous to use on a public network, as you’re never sure if someone is logging your data.

On the flipside, HTTPS does encrypt your data. HTTPS is typically used when you log into a website, so your information is hidden. You can tell if a website uses HTTPS by looking at the URL; it should start with “HTTPS” if your connection is secure. Browsers may also show an icon next to the address bar to let you know your data is encrypted. Google Chrome, for example, will show a little padlock to inform you that it’s using HTTPS.

When you’re logging into a website, be sure to check the protocol. If it uses HTTPS, you’re safe to log in. If you don’t see the lock, the website is using HTTP and is unsafe. If this happens when you visit a popular website, there’s a good chance that malware has redirected you to a fake website that looks identical to the real thing. This is done so the hackers can get your login details and get into your real account on the actual website.

If you’re interested in using HTTPS on as many websites as possible, it’s worth looking at HTTPS Everywhere. This is an addon that’s compatible with most popular browsers and forces HTTPS on every website that supports it.

4. Secure Your Router From Hackers

Your router is the central hub for your home’s internet connection. It handles who can and can’t use your connection, which makes it a key target for hackers. As such, it’s worth securing your router to prevent any headaches in the future.

For one, make sure you’re using WPA2 for your Wi-Fi key. If you received your router semi-recently, there’s a very good chance it has been using WPA2 since you bought it. Older models will use WPA, or worse, WEP. There are plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t use WEP What Is WEP Wi-Fi Encryption? Here's Why You Should NOT Use It What Is WEP Wi-Fi Encryption? Here's Why You Should NOT Use It Here's why WEP encryption just isn't good enough and why you should stop using it on your wireless routers at home. Read More , so be sure to buy a new router if your one uses it.

Is your network secure from password hacking? If you’re unsure, double-check the passwords that your router uses. There are two you need to check: the password to access the network and the password that gives you admin controls over the router itself.

These days, routers use randomized passwords for every model to stop hacks. Older or cheaper models, however, will likely use default usernames and passwords, such as the classic “username: admin, password: admin” standard. If yours has this, be sure to change it immediately!

If you’re feeling paranoid, you can also change the SSID of your router. By default, your router broadcasts a name that gives away what model it is. If hackers find a flaw in your model of router, your SSID will reveal that you’re using a vulnerable router.

Giving your router a fun name hides your model name and makes it harder for hackers to crack your security.

5. Check Your VPN Connection for Leaks

IP Leak Testing a VPN in Spain

Is your internet connection secure from DNS leaks? If you use a VPN, it’s a good idea to double-check if it’s leaking information about your true whereabouts. If the term “VPN” doesn’t mean anything to you, you don’t need to worry about this step. Instead, why not check out some reasons why you need a VPN, and what it means 11 Reasons Why You Need a VPN and What It Is 11 Reasons Why You Need a VPN and What It Is Virtual private networks can protect your privacy. We explain what exactly they do and why you should use a VPN. Read More ?

If you do use a VPN, you can double-check that the service is hiding you using IP Leak. This will prod at your traffic to make sure that your VPN connection is secure, and doesn’t “leak” your real details. If you visit the website without the VPN, it will show you all the information it can deduce from your connection.

When you revisit the website after activating the VPN, it should show the VPN’s server details instead of your own. If you see your details, it means your VPN isn’t properly securing your connection.

Keeping Your Connection Safe

There are many ways in which a hacker can compromise your connection. There’s no need to fret, however; by performing some simple tests, you can make sure that your connection is safe to use.

If you want to take this a step further, why not learn some simple tips to secure your router 7 Simple Tips to Secure Your Router and Wi-Fi Network in Minutes 7 Simple Tips to Secure Your Router and Wi-Fi Network in Minutes Is someone sniffing and eavesdropping on your Wi-Fi traffic, stealing your passwords and credit card numbers? Would you even know if somebody was? Probably not, so secure your wireless network with these 7 simple steps. Read More ?

Explore more about: Computer Security, Firewall, Online Security, Password.

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  1. dragonmouth
    November 16, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    "To safely test an antivirus, you can download an EICAR file."
    That only proves that the A/V can detect an EICAR file. It does in no way prove how good your A/V is at detecting viruses. Considering that new viruses are released on just about daily basis, it is guaranteed that even the best A/Vs will miss some of them.

    If this article is supposedly updated, why no mention of WPA3 or other modern security products?

  2. seenu
    December 7, 2010 at 6:04 am

    hi

  3. Alex
    December 4, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    There isn't any reason I can think of, other than the one you mentioned, but unfortunately a broadband suppliers have a nasty habit (in the UK at least) of providing routers where default security is WEP. Two networks on my street this moment are WEP encrypted, I think mainly because people trust providers to set them up with adequate security.

    Thats why I thought its worth a mention in the article really, I don't know if its less of a problem in America. With context to the with the digital economy bill, I think false legal accusations on hijacked lines will be an increasing problem.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/tec...

  4. venkat
    December 4, 2010 at 10:05 am

    minumum enabled Firewall is definite aid for secure internet connection.

  5. Alex
    December 3, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    From what I understand, you shouldn't don't rely on MAC address filtering, which mentioned briefly in the article (but not directly recommended). Anyone trying to gain unauthorized access to your network will probably know how to use MAC spoofing software, its only a google search away...

    I really think you should differentiate strongly, really strongly between WPA and WEP. They are not one and the same in terms of vulnerability.

    • M.S. Smith
      December 4, 2010 at 12:02 am

      Yes, WEP is most certainly weaker than WPA. There isn't really a reason to use WEP anymore, unless you have some really old hardware that doesn't support WPA. In which case it is time to start putting some money into your piggy bank so you can afford an upgrade.

      • Alex
        December 4, 2010 at 11:19 am

        There isn't any reason I can think of, other than the one you mentioned, but unfortunately a broadband suppliers have a nasty habit (in the UK at least) of providing routers where default security is WEP. Two networks on my street this moment are WEP encrypted, I think mainly because people trust providers to set them up with adequate security.

        Thats why I thought its worth a mention in the article really, I don't know if its less of a problem in America. With context to the with the digital economy bill, I think false legal accusations on hijacked lines will be an increasing problem.

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/7566427/MPs-pass-Digital-Economy-Bill.html

        • M.S. Smith
          December 7, 2010 at 8:50 am

          Aaaaah...I see. I haven't noticed that problem in my area (Oregon) but that could certainly be a problem. Most people wouldn't know any better, trusting that their ISP did whatever was required.

        • Aibek
          December 10, 2010 at 9:53 am

          Alex, thanks for the input.

  6. Alex
    December 3, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    From what I understand, you shouldn't don't rely on MAC address filtering, which mentioned briefly in the article (but not directly recommended). Anyone trying to gain unauthorized access to your network will probably know how to use MAC spoofing software, its only a google search away...

    I really think you should differentiate strongly, really strongly between WPA and WEP. They are not one and the same in terms of vulnerability.

  7. Rocco Rizzo
    December 3, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    Gibson Research has a load of free security tools at http://www.grc.com

  8. Rocco Rizzo
    December 3, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Gibson Research has a load of free security tools at http://www.grc.com