You surely have a wireless Wi-Fi network at home created using a Wi-Fi router that you and family members use actively. As we have said elsewhere, everything connected with (and to) the Internet needs to be well protected, and routers are no exception.
Cybercriminals like to attack routers and turn them into botnet slaves as well as use them to monitor traffic and syphon off interesting tidbits like credit card numbers. And a hacked router can also be harnessed to spread malware on the local
network – to all your devices.
To guard against attacks, the router must be configured correctly. If you have never ventured into its settings before, now’s the time to start!
How to open the router settings
Right, let’s begin. Go to the router and turn it over. On the back, you will find the account address (usually 192.168.0.0 or 192.168.0.1, but may be different for some models), as well as its default username and password.
Enter the address in the browser, followed by the username and password on the page that opens – and voila! You are greeted by the router settings window.
If you changed the default password, obviously the one on the back of the router will no longer work. But even if you changed and then forgot it, don’t worry – you can always reset the device to the factory settings. Simply locate the Reset button
and hold it down for 15 seconds. Then you are free to log into your account.
How to rename the Wi-Fi network and change its password
The default name of the Wi-Fi network (something like TP-LINK_A1B2C3) should be changed; there are several reasons for this. First, it’s inconvenient. Suppose a friend or other guest visits your place, wants to show you a funny YouTube video on their
device, and you have to scroll through a list of Wi-Fi network names that all look the same. Second, keeping the default name might give cybercriminals the idea that you are easy prey since you never bothered to go into the connection settings.
And third, hackers can exploit vulnerabilities in a specific router brand or model if this information is contained in the name of the network.
Renaming your home network is easy to do in the wireless settings – look for a field called SSID, Network Name, or something similar. Do not use personal data in the name: date of birth, names of loved ones, etc., since it can be seen by anyone within
range of your apartment.
The network name is important, but more important still is the network password. It can usually be changed in the same place as the name. Choose a strong combination: at least ten characters, including numbers and alternating upper/lowercase letters.
For more details about how to create a complex password and not to forget it, see lesson 4 of the Personal Data Protection course.
Router password and encryption
To protect the router itself from hackers, set a new password for it too. Find its settings in the System, Configuration, or Management sections, and enter the old and new passwords. The requirements for the latter you already know. Note that the
router password must be different from the one for the Wi-Fi network.
It is also worth changing the router username – that will double-complicate the task for would-be hackers. Somewhere in the same section there should be a checkbox to enable access to the router settings not only through the local network, but via
the Internet. This can be convenient, but very insecure – if you see such an option, make sure that it is disabled.
To protect data you transmit online, enable WPA2 (or at least WPA) encryption. The older standard, WEP, became insecure a decade ago.
The “no protection/encryption” option should not even be considered. Usually, the checkbox we need is hidden in the wireless settings under the name Wi-Fi Network Security Options or Wireless Security. To recap: no protection and WEP = bad, WPA =
so-so, WPA2 = good.
How to set up a guest network
The most important thing is not to let malware into your network. Let’s assume that you yourself would never do anything to let malware penetrate your device and spread over the network.
But can you honestly say the same thing for everyone who comes to visit? Probably not. But since you can’t deny guests Internet access, the solution is to set up a separate network for them to use. This is called a guest network. On it, devices on
your main network are not visible, so even if a guest’s device is infected with malware, it will not be able to get into your computer or smartphone.
In most routers, a guest network can be configured in the Allow Guest Access or Guest Network subsection, usually located in the Wi-Fi section. You will need to think up a username/password combination for the guest network too, which must be different
from those for the main network. And a high level of encryption is also worth enabling.
What is firmware and how to update it
All routers have an operating system, just like a computer or smartphone. This is called firmware. It is very important to regularly update it, because manufacturers are constantly fixing vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit.
In most routers, it can be updated in the settings – look for such an option under Administration or Utilities. There you can locate the new firmware file on the computer’s hard drive. Before that, however, you have to go to the website of the router
manufacturer and download the latest version of the firmware. Note that during the update the Internet will be unavailable.
What should you NOT do when setting up a home network and router?