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Protecting Your Home Wi-Fi from Hackers

Home is where the heart is. And it’s also where your Wi-Fi instantly connects.

 

Wi-Fi is not just expanding across the world. It’s occupying more and more devices, from our phones to our stereos to our fridges and light switches.

 

The rising ubiquity of Wi-Fi and the speed of log-ins are closely connected: just as our devices and homes are becoming increasingly internet-enabled, log-ins, passwords and internet access are becoming more and more automated.

 

And this is expanding to friends' and family members’ homes: in many cases, our phones are automatically connected to friends’ Wi-Fi networks before we even enter the front door.

 

This age of rising convenience is wonderful. It makes our lives easier, more connected and more comfortable. Unfortunately, as with any new tech, it also brings security risks.

 

Think of new Wi-Fi capabilities as new entry points to your home. And, in this context, security measures are akin to buying new locks for these entry points.

 

First, we’ll talk about the internet of things (IoT) and how your home uses Wi-Fi. Then we’ll discuss ways to secure your home Wi-Fi from hackers...

Your home and “the Internet of Things”

Thanks to the internet of things, many of your devices are also interconnected.


The internet of things (or IoT) refers to devices that connect to each other, transferring their uses and data. This can be automated, so it can happen without requiring instruction from a human (like you!). Unique Identifiers (UIDs) are present in IoT devices, allowing for this data transfer to occur.

 

This data transfer has countless applications, as you might imagine, making devices smarter and more automated every day they’re used. Farmers use UIDs to track livestock, it has military applications (including vehicles and soldiers’ equipment sharing data) and is revolutionary when it comes to medical devices and patient monitoring.

 

On a domestic level, a home equipped with IoT devices might learn when to turn on the heating or switch on lights, for instance.

What devices are connected to your home Wi-Fi? 

Before you even look at IoT, it’s easy to forget how much Wi-Fi permeates every aspect of our home life. Even if the youngest members of your household don’t have a phone yet, they might be using Wi-Fi for gaming or TV.

 

Here are just some everyday items that are now frequently (if not always) dependent on Wi-Fi: 

  • Laptops
  • Phones
  • Tablets
  • Printers
  • Kitchen appliances like microwaves or fridges 
  • Security cameras 
  • Lights 
  • Speakers 
  • Heating 

Naturally, this opens your home up to new vulnerabilities. Here’s how home Wi-Fi security can be breached...

Can my home Wi-Fi be hacked?

Sadly, every new innovation invites a criminal element.

 

A hacker might gain access by using the Wi-Fi router to enter the network.

 

Then, if a hacker is online via your Wi-Fi, they could access your list of saved networks and sites. From there, they might be able to find passwords or personal data (from bank details to security camera footage).

 

While this is far from an ideal scenario, thankfully there are ways to prevent it, and giveaways if it has happened. 

Can I tell if someone is using my Wi-Fi?

Here are some of the early telltale signs that your Wi-Fi might be hacked: 

  • Your internet has slowed down 
  • Streaming TV crashes or stalls

And here’s what to do to investigate more thoroughly:

1. Do a speed test 

This is straightforward. Visit a site or app like SpeedTest.net on your phone or computer and follow the instructions (which usually involves clicking a box that says “Run speed test”). Don’t worry if you don’t know what constitutes optimum speed – the resulting diagnosis should tell you clearly whether everything’s running smoothly or not.

2. Check router activity lights after switching off all your devices connected

To do this, either turn off your devices or switch them to Airplane Mode. If the router’s lights are flashing or illuminated, that means that someone else is using your Wi-Fi. 

3. Log on to your wireless router’s access page to see who’s using the Wi-Fi

You can do this by entering the IP address in your internet address bar. So, if your IP address is 123:456:7.8., you would type http://123:456:7.8. And then press enter. This should bring you to the admin page. Log-in details are on your router box or in the accompanying instructions/paperwork you receive. From there, you’ll see who’s using your Wi-Fi. 

What can hackers do with your router?

What can a hacker do once they get into your router? One quirky example involved a hack of a neighbour’s printer, which resulted in the printer being thrown out...ripe to be collected by the prankster hacker.

 

But scarier things can happen too. With access to your router, a hacker can...

  1. Access your personal information and use it to steal your identity. 
  2. Gain access to devices connected to your home Wi-Fi - controlling them remotely. 
  3. Peek into your domestic lives by using security cameras.
  4. Gather information that can be used for extortion or blackmail. 
  5. Potentially see your online activities too, by logging into social media accounts. 

How to block others from using your home Wi-Fi

So, how can you minimize the damage of such a hack, or better yet - prevent it? Here’s how to make your home Wi-Fi more secure...

 

Firstly, don’t panic: nothing might have happened yet. Then, take some (if not all) of the following steps:

 

1. Change the default name of the router

 

This can be done by logging in as administrator (as outlined above). From there, find the “Settings” tab and have a look for “SSID” or “Wi-Fi Name”. There should be a box, in which you can enter the new name.

 

2. Create stronger passwords

 

In general, you should have passwords that are hard to guess and include numbers, letters and punctuation. Read our guide to passwords for more [insert password guide link]. You can change passwords using the same steps as changing the name of the router (see above).

 

3. Consider network encryption

 

Network encryption serves a similar purpose as sending a message in a secret code or language: the data sent over networks is “encrypted” (and thus unreadable) while in transit, and then “decrypted” (returned to its original form) when it reaches its destination.

 

One way to use encryption in day to day life is to save data via an encrypted cloud service. This is essentially a third-party resource for keeping data and information in a virtual vault - like a safe for your data.

 

4. Enable a firewall

 

A firewall is another line of defense against hackers, and your device might already have one. They’re not always automatically enabled because they can get in the way of some functionality (like downloading apps, for instance).

 

You can enable your PC’s firewall by going to settings or searching “Firewall” in your device, then following the instructions there. On a Mac, find “System Preferences”, then choose “Privacy and Security” where you’ll find the “Firewall” tab. From there, click on the lock icon and then “Turn on firewall”.

 

5. Update router software

 

When you’re operating as your router’s administrator (as outlined above), there might be an option to update your router’s software. This is always a good idea, as updates usually include security updates as well. 

Clario - your own Wi-Fi security guard

Clario are industry leaders in security software for home use. We provide next-generation cyber security, easy to use software and - best of all - peace of mind. 

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