In the infancy of the Internet, cybercrime was almost unheard of. Things have changed. In 2015, there were 594 million victims of cybercrime, with 21 percent of Americans getting their email hacked and 12 percent with their financial data stolen after online shopping, as reported by the Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report.
The report also warns that using public and unsecured WiFi is a breeding ground for criminal activity and leaves users vulnerable. WiFi security isn’t just about small, petty crime over emails and financial identity theft. CNBC went as far to say that cybersecurity is the biggest threat to the world economy, leaving companies and private citizens alike exposed to risk. It can feel like the only answers are hoping it doesn’t happen to us or shutting down our devices and living off the grid.
Another answer is exercising caution and getting to know the basics of WiFi security. Here’s how to get started:
Change Your Default Credentials
Buying a WiFi router and never changing the password is similar to buying a home and never changing the locks. You have no idea who has access to your home. Before you do anything else, change your default credentials whenever you install a new router or related software. Hackers don’t have to try very hard when default credentials are still in place, and they can log in easily. Choose a strong password or use an online password generator and keep a written copy tucked away somewhere safe.
You may already know to avoid free, public WiFi at coffee shops, airports, and museums that expose you to risk. Hackers can set up a look-alike connection to make it look like you’re connecting to a reputable hotspot.
However, when you fail to secure your credentials, your home WiFi might also be serving as a public WiFi hotspot. Failing to password protect your WiFi or using a weak, easy to guess password can leave your entire WiFi system open to the public. Cyber experts suggest using a WPA2 password option for the most prevalent and up-to-date wireless encryption protocol.
Use a VPN
Remote workers are probably familiar with Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs. Companies usually require their employees to use a VPN to add an extra layer of protection to their remote access. The VPN essentially creates an encrypted, private network to help combat hackers. However, even if you don’t work from home, you can use a VPN to help protect your WiFi and keep digital intruders at bay.
Provide a Separate Guest Network
We all know sharing passwords isn’t wise, but isn’t easy to avoid when you have guests at your home. A trusted neighbor may also ask if they can borrow your WiFi credentials for a few hours while their own internet connection is serviced. Short of telling anyone who walks into your home that they can’t use your Internet, you can provide a separate network for guests. This solution allows guests to connect without accessing your internal network. Remember to turn on WPA2 protection for your guest network for an added security boost.
Cybersecurity may feel complicated, but homeowners can stay diligent and proactive about WiFi security by starting with the basics. Focus on password protection and bolstering access points with WPA2 protection and continue with additional layers as you master those first steps to cybersecurity. The safety of your digital world could depend on it.