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How to secure your home broadband router

The security of millions of home broadband connections could be at risk according to research which found that many people had not taken steps to secure their Wi-Fi routers.

Broadband Genie recently surveyed 2,000 broadband users about their home network security, and what they found was a worrying gap in the knowledge of many people which could expose their devices and private information to hackers.

53% of respondents said they were concerned about their router being hacked, but 41% said they were “not at all concerned”. Those 41% may be confident in the security of their router, but further questions revealed it may be that they are unaware of the risks.

In our survey, 30% had changed their Wi-Fi password, while only 17% had changed the default admin password and just 19% had even accessed their router admin controls. 53% said they had never touched any of their router’s settings, which could mean that millions of home broadband routers are operating with factory default passwords and out of date software, making them extremely vulnerable to hacking attacks like the sort which recently affected TalkTalk customers.

Easy to secure

It doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t need to be a techie to take these simple steps to improve the security of a router.

Before you start: admin controls and resetting the router

Every router has an admin control panel which you’ll need to access to make changes to the settings. The exact steps for each make and model vary, but in general, you’ll use a web browser to navigate to an IP address (such as 192.168.0.1) or perhaps a URL (for example, Netgear routers use routerlogin.net). At this point, you’ll be prompted to enter a password, and maybe a username. If you’re not sure how to access your router’s admin controls, check the manual or contact your ISP.

The other important thing to know before making any changes is that you can almost always use the reset button to restore the factory default settings if something goes wrong. Usually, this is a recessed switch on the rear of the device. But remember that this will completely wipe out any changes you’ve made, and in some instances, it may be necessary to enter a login to get back on the internet.

Change the admin password

The first step is to choose a different password for the admin controls. The default passwords are very often ‘admin’ or ‘password’ and can be the same across a brand’s entire range. This makes it laughably simple for anyone with access to your network to get at these important settings.

Restrict admin access

In addition to changing the admin password, you may also have some additional options which can be used to restrict access to the admin control panel.

Many routers offer remote control so the router can be configured over the internet. Useful in some situations, but most home users are best off disabling this to prevent remote login attempts.

Another setting you may have is the ability to restrict admin access to wired connections. This means that in order to change the router’s configuration you must be connected with an Ethernet (network) cable. So if someone manages to get on your Wi-Fi they won’t be able to mess with the router too.

how to secure your home broadband router

Change the Wi-Fi password

Unlike the admin password, most routers now come with a unique Wi-Fi password out of the box. But you may still wish to change it. For starters, the default is often printed on the router itself so it’s easy for anyone to jump on the Wi-Fi (perhaps a concern for parents). And if you regularly share the Wi-Fi, it’s good to know you can just change it to block unwanted freeloaders using your broadband.

When choosing a password, random is best and the longer it is the better. You should also ensure the router is using ‘WPA2’ security. If your router is old you may only have the option for WEP or WPA, in which case it’s time to upgrade to a newer and more secure model.

Use a guest network

Guest Wi-Fi allows you to give visitors access to the internet while preventing them from accessing shared network files or devices. Many routers now offer this feature and takes just a few minutes to set up.

Change the SSID

The SSID is the name of a Wi-Fi network that’s displayed when searching for a Wi-Fi connection. However, in many cases the default SSID can give away the make and model of the router, helping an attacker target it with known default passwords or exploits. Make life harder by choosing your own Wi-Fi network name.

Keep firmware up to date

Router firmware updates can plug security holes (and provide new features) so it’s important to use the latest version to protect against known exploits. This may require you to login and manually check for an update, or there may be a software utility which can notify you of new versions.

*It is worth 
noting that firmware updates can be risky and cause irreparable damage if not properly carried out. Follow the instructions and never switch off the router while an update is in progress*

Using the above steps will help make your network difficult for anyone to gain access to. If, however you are concerned you should contact your broadband provider and they will be able to offer assistance.

Christian Keenan
When not blogging for MyMemory Christian Keenan is a professional photographer.

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