Your home is your castle. At least, that’s what you’ve been told all these years. What if an invisible threat lurked in the digital plumbing that connects it to the wider world?
Among cybersecurity experts like George Otte, there’s growing alarm that home wireless networks simply aren’t as safe as many people assume. That’s a problem, because poorly defended networks expose users to all sorts of scary risks.
Here’s a look at why your home network might be more exposed than you realize…and a few tips for fixing that ASAP.
Your home wireless network’s most vulnerable point is its router. That’s because millions of home routers retain their default credentials — the password that allows administrative access to the machine and protects against unauthorized use. If hackers someone become aware of your router’s default credentials (and they’re not hard for seasoned cybercriminals to uncover), they can use your router to infect your home devices with all manner of nasty malware.
Why Home Network Hacking Matters
Home network hacking isn’t just a problem for the individual users it affects. If your home network is compromised, your devices can spread malware far and wide — to anyone in your email contacts and to other computers on the public wireless networks you use, to name but two avenues. In other words, you could unwittingly become a vector for cybercriminals.
How to Protect Your Router
Fortunately, securing a home wireless network is a straightforward affair. The simplest step you can take is simply to change the default credentials on your router. You can also set up WPA encryption for your router, which doesn’t require expert-level tech savvy. These two steps are likely to prevent the most basic, common attacks.
For a more robust approach to home network protection, use an OpenDNS server that protects you from some of the threats on your default server. You can also disable remote admin access (if enabled), further choking off entry to your network. Finally, you can use open-source firmware (or simply keep your firmware up to date) rather than rely on manufacturer firmware that may be out of date by the time it reaches you.
It’s often said that the cybersecurity landscape resembles an arms race between two mortal enemies. As each side fights for position, advancing and retreating across a scarred battlefield, the real casualties are all too often rank-and-file technology users who just want to be left to surf the Web in peace.
Given the proliferation of digital threats out there, it’s important not to put too much stock in any one threat over any other. Home wireless networks might be a key vulnerability for average Web users. But there are plenty of other threats — unsecured public networks, phishing scams, trojans and who knows what else. As a concerned user, the best thing you can do is be aware of as many threats as you can, and vigilant to suspicious activity that could presage something worse to come..