How to lock your Wi-Fi and protect your home
Take steps to secure your WiFi before moochers and criminals slow your connection.
People love to use WiFi. You find an unprotected signal and log in. Why not? It's free. Your neighbor doesn't mind if you steal a little broadband to watch Netflix, right?
Criminals love unsecured WiFi too, and they mean harm. They use your network to attack your devices and steal your personal information. They download illegal files through your router and leave you vulnerable to police investigation.
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Moochers slow down your connection, cause buffering, and make it difficult for you to do online tasks or a movie. But moochers aren't the only cause of a pokey bond. Tap or click here to do eight router tweaks and get your WiFi up to speed.
If your router is more than a few years old, it's time to buy a new one. I like to choose the router based on the size of a house. Tap or click here to find the best routers out there.
Here are some tips for securing your WiFi router against unauthorized hitchhikers:
1. Get a list of everything about your network
Time to take a look at your network. First you want to log into the administrative console of your router. You log into your router just like you would log into any computer. Every router has a different approach. So check your manual for specific instructions.
(If you run out of your manual, check out the manufacturer's website. You can also tap or click here to visit a fantastic website with thousands of manuals for everything under the sun, including routers.)
Make sure your device is connected to your router. It doesn't matter whether this is done via a wireless connection or via a cable. Open a browser and enter the router's IP address. The IP address consists of a series of numbers. The default setting depends on the manufacturer of your router. The most common are 192.168.1.1, 192.168.0.1, or 192.168.2.1.
Check the DHCP Client List or Connected Devices section which shows which gadgets are connected to your router. Usually they are listed by IP address, MAC address and / or name. After checking this list of connected devices, find out which ones belong to you. You should recognize the name of your main computer and your tablet or smartphone should have the name of the manufacturer or model.
If you don't understand the list or can't identify certain devices, turn off each gadget individually. You can also turn off the WiFi of any gadget. Make a note of these network details for tracking purposes or take a quick picture with your smartphone so you can refer to them later. If you've turned it all off and you're still seeing unfamiliar devices, you know you have a culprit.
Now there's a much easier way: you can use the aptly named Wireless Network Watcher. This free program gives you a list of the devices connected to your Wi-Fi network. You can start it up quickly whenever you want to check it out or leave it open for real-time monitoring. Easy.
2. Block unauthorized users
You may or may not find intruders. Either way, you can protect your Wi-Fi connection (and your data) by encrypting your connection.
Every router on the market offers different encryption options. One type to avoid is "WEP" which is out of date and easy to work around. Instead, look for an encryption that begins with "WPA2" and ends with "WPA2-PSK AES". The WPA2 family of ciphers should protect your router from common hackers.
Your network may already be encrypted, but outsiders will still be able to access your WiFi. If so, change your password immediately. You can also reset your router to factory settings (see manual) and set up your Wi-Fi signal from scratch.
This step means changing the default password, enabling encryption, choosing a new SSID, and disabling all remote management features. Remember, if you change your encryption password, you will need to update the password on all of your devices as well.
3. Smart idea to set up another network
Friends and family always want to use your WiFi. They ask politely, phone in hand, because they hate to burn their data plans when they can use your connection. Use your router's "guest network" instead of giving them your real password.
This feature allows you to share your internet connection with your guests while keeping them away from your main network so that they cannot see your shared files and services. To avoid confusion with your main network, set up your guest network with a different network name (SSID) and password.
Although the guest network is available to guests, keep the same level of security as your primary network. This means developing a strong password and restricting access to your shared files and devices. Make sure Local Access is set to Off to prevent guests from tampering with your system.
Do you want a really cool tip? You don't have to enter your password at all. This allows you to share your network's password using a QR code.
4. Disable the possibility for others to access your router
"Remote Administration" is a function with which you can log into and manage your router via the Internet. If you've ever called tech support, you might have experienced something similar: a distant technician speaks to you on the phone and operates your computer as if he were sitting right next to you.
Remote management is a handy tool, especially when you need to troubleshoot a problem but your computer is vulnerable to hackers. Unless you need it, disable this feature. You can find this under your router settings, usually under the heading "Remote Administration". You can turn it back on whenever you need to. The last thing you need to do is invite strangers to your home network.
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Learn about the latest technology at the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and offers advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacking. For her daily tips, free newsletters, and more, visit her website at Komando.com.
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: Tips to Secure Your WiFi Router Against Unauthorized Hitchhikers.
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