If you think that home network security is as simple as turning on a router, think again. There are many common missteps that can seriously reduce the security of your home network. Any one of them can pose serious risks from a data security standpoint. These mistakes typically fall into one of four major categories: software issues, hardware issues, network setting problems and user errors. The following list includes 75 of the most common reasons for compromised home network security; read through them to make sure that your own network is truly security.
In many cases you either have a lack of hardware in your home to provide for a secure network or you simply don’t have it configured properly. A majority of Internet service providers provide you with devices that are adequate for basic security if they are setup properly.
- You aren’t using a firewall for your wireless router. They are easy to configure; if you aren’t sure how to do it, a technician from the wireless Internet company might be able to help.
- Your wireless router isn’t setup to use encryption. Most modern routers automatically are, but you should double-check to make sure.
- It has been years since you bought a new wireless router. Old routers often aren’t as secure as newer models.
- Your router is using the default SSID. This makes your wireless network vulnerable to attack. Creating a custom SSID resolves this issue.
- MAC address filtering is not enabled. A MAC address is the physical address for Wi-Fi devices. Without filtering those addresses, outside parties will have an easier time infiltrating your network.
- SSID broadcasting has not been disabled. While it makes sense for a business to broadcast its SSID in some cases, it never makes sense for a home to do so.
- Your wireless router is not located in the center of your home. The closer to the center it is located, the less far its signal will stray from beyond its walls.
- When you leave home for extended periods of time, you do not turn off your network. There is no reason to leave it on when you are not at home.
- The transmission power of your router has not been reduced. Many routers allow you to reduce the power of their signals. If yours allows this, make sure to do so.
- Your router is not certified for WPA2, which is a high-quality form of encryption. It pays to upgrade.
Even if we have a good hardware setup, flaws in the software we use can open up a hole in the security of our network. From the operating system to the games we love, we need to be diligent about configuring the security settings of our software.
- You use Windows. It is the most popular operating system. Machines that run on Windows are more susceptible to security issues because hackers have a broader target.
- Firewall software is not installed on your PC. It provides an added layer of protection against outside invasions.
- The settings for your PC-based firewall are too lax. While you need to have access to the Internet, your computer shouldn’t allow unknown programs through.
- You are not using a password on your computer. In order to access your computer, a unique password should be used.
- The password that you use on your PC is weak. It should include a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.
- No antivirus software is installed on your computer. Such software helps to prevent malicious attacks that can compromise the security of your home network.
- You have antivirus software installed, but it is out of date. Definitions must be current for such software to work effectively.
- You aren’t using anti-spyware software, which protects your machine against different types of attacks.
- You aren’t using anti-adware software, which protects your computer from yet another set of attacks.
- Scans aren’t scheduled to occur regularly through your antivirus program.
- You aren’t running full-fledged scans from time to time yourself. They do much more thorough sweeps of your computer.
- There are too many antivirus programs installed on your computer. They cause it to crash frequently and may cancel each other out.
- Your web browser isn’t set up securely. Special settings can be enabled that enhance security.
- Cookies are accepted from all websites and programs through your Internet browser.
- Java and other scripts are not restricted at all through your browser.
- Personal firewalls are not enabled on every computer that shares your network.
- The antivirus software that you use was free, and it isn’t doing a very good job.
- You aren’t using a VPN, or virtual private network, and you could be.
- Remote administration has not been disabled, which makes things easier for hackers.
- Your PDF reader is out of date and insecure, which makes it easier for viruses to come through.
- The software on your PC is generally out of date. Outdated software is less secure than up-to-date software.
- You aren’t using a commercial DNS provider. High-quality, free ones are available.
- The browser on your computer isn’t set up to force the use of SSL encryption.
- Your email isn’t using secure protocols.
- Scripting has not been disabled in your Internet browser.
- You haven’t enabled data execution prevention, or DEP, for all programs on every computer on your network.
- Parental control software is not installed on computers that are used by kids.
Network Settings Issues
This usually goes hand-in-hand with either the hardware or software setup. In this section though we are going to specifically address network security settings which generally are at the heart of good home security.
- The password on your wireless router is insecure.
- Your router isn’t using WEP encryption.
- Your router isn’t using WPA encryption.
- WEP/WPA encryption is not being used by your wireless router.
- Encryption has not been enabled at all for your wireless router.
- Your administrator password is weak and easy to crack.
- The computers in your home are set to connect automatically to wireless networks. This could cause them to connect to unfamiliar, insecure networks by accident, which could pose security risks.
- DHCP is not turned off for Wi-Fi-enabled devices. Static IP addresses need to be assigned.
This is generally far and away the biggest challenge with securing a home network. Generally speaking, some of the users in most homes are less sophisticated (especially if you have children or even elderly parents living in the house) and they tend to ignore warnings and/or other acts of unintentional sabotage to your network security.
- You disregard warnings from your firewall software.
- Updates to your operating system are not being performed in a timely manner.
- Patches are not being downloaded and installed right when they are available.
- The people on your network aren’t careful about clicking on unsafe links.
- Users on your network default to clicking on links when they should enter URLs manually whenever possible.
- Unsafe practices are being used for peer-to-peer services, which is like rolling out the red carpet to hackers.
- The passwords on your computers are not being changed from time to time.
- Your passwords include your birth date and other easy-to-figure-out information.
- You don’t allow updates to complete because you get impatient with them.
- Poor judgment is being used when playing online games.
- Kids who use the network are sharing personal information with strangers.
- Too much personal information is being shared on social media sites.
- Caution isn’t being exercised when emails are opened; files are downloaded and opened without question.
- Game consoles in the house are online through the Wi-Fi network at all times.
- A Nintendo Wii is always connected to the home’s wireless network.
- People transmit potentially risky information through a PS3 that is connected to the home network.
- Care isn’t being taken when making online purchases through an Xbox 360 that is connected to the home network.
- Several smartphones and other devices are connected to the wireless network at all times.
- iPads and other mobile devices continually use the wireless network because it doesn’t have a password.
- The name for your wireless network can be easily connected to your household. Identifying information should not be included in the names of wireless networks.
- You knowingly allow strangers to use your wireless network. For instance, servicers who come into the home to make repairs are allowed to connect their smartphones to your home network.
- You allow your neighbors to share your home network. This may save you both money, but it compromises your safety and security.
- Far too much of your personal information is easy to find online. Hackers use this information to get around passwords and to answer challenge questions.
- You use the same usernames at home and at work. This makes it easier for people to figure out your other settings. Whenever possible, you should use unique usernames.
- Out-of-the-office default messages are used when you are out of town. This lets people know that you aren’t there to keep an eye on your network. Instead of using those messages, send emails to the people who need to know.
- Your challenge responses are easy to figure out. If your security question is, “What is your mother’s maiden name,” don’t use the true answer. Come up with a fake response. It is far too easy for people to figure out things like this.
- Caution isn’t being exercised when downloading content from the Internet. You can’t expect your antivirus software to catch everything. Steer clear of disreputable websites and check user reviews before you download anything.
- You have file and network sharing enabled at all times. This may be the easy way to do things, but it’s also fraught with peril. Only enable sharing when it is needed; otherwise, keep it turned off.
- Kids in your home are not supervised when they are using the Internet. This makes it more likely that they will pass along sensitive information to strangers.
- You don’t immediately change your wireless password after temporarily sharing it. If a friend or relative visits and you give them the password, change it right after they leave.
As you can see, there are many ways to improve the security of your home network. Commit this list to memory and make the necessary changes today. By doing so, you will keep your family and home network safer. Stay alert!