12 Best Ways To Protect Your Home Network

Some of the best ways to protect your home network are to use strong passwords, keep your router’s software up to date and enable WPA3 encryption. And that’s just a handful of the things you can do to stay in control.

Here at Networks Hardware, we’ve been testing the best ways to protect your home network.

So stay with us as we explore some of our findings and what you can do to be protected.

Let’s get started. 

How to enhance your Wi-Fi router’s security

Solid home network security starts with the internet connection itself. That’s why protecting your Wi-Fi router is key. Here are a few of the steps you can take to do just that.

#1 Choose a strong password

This might seem obvious, but it’s worth doubling down on. If someone can easily access your Wi-Fi network, they can easily access your personal data. 

A great place to start is a strong password that nobody will be able to guess. 

Make sure it includes a combination of numbers, letters, and special characters. Also, ensure not to include any obvious personal information (such as your street name and house number). [1]

You could keep the Wi-Fi password that comes with the router, although it’s often impossible to remember. To change the password, head to the configuration page of the router by entering its IP address into a browser. 

To find this, simply enter ‘IPCONFIG’ into Windows Command Prompt and press enter. 

The Default Gateway is your IP address. If you’re on a Mac, just navigate to Network in System Preferences and hit Advanced. Click the TCP/IP tab and you’ll see the IP address there.

Take a closer look at accessing your router for more information on this. 

#2 Enable automatic updates

Device updates might seem like a chore, but they’re important. No more so than with the router itself. 

The developers of the router will be constantly rolling out updates to improve security. The easiest way to install them and stay on top is by enabling automatic updates.

How this is done often depends on which router you have. A good place to start is the router configuration page we discussed just now. If you can’t find any information about updates there, reach out to your network provider.

You might find that automatic updates are switched on by default in most cases. However, it’s always worth checking!

#3 Check out WPA3 Encryption

Why not go the extra mile with encryption? Every new Wi-Fi router these days will have the option for ‘WPA3-only mode’ and this is a pretty good setting to enable if it isn’t on by default. [2]

WPA3 is the latest in router encryption technology and offers the most support. To enable it, just head over to that configuration page we’ve been discussing. 

Just keep in mind that for WPA3 encryption to have any effect both your router and your client device (the device connected to the Wi-Fi) need to have it. Most newer devices sold after 2019 will have WPA3, but older devices will not.

#4 Upgrade your router

A lot of routers supplied by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are problematic. They don’t offer the best security or performance sometimes. That’s why a lot of people prefer to upgrade their routers.

It doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, you can get a great router for a low price. 

You’ll often find that upgraded routers have better security settings, including encryption. Plus, they’ll be likely to perform better. That’s two birds with one stone!

Advanced router defence

If you want to go the extra mile with your router defense, there are a few more things to try out. 

These are only really necessary if you want to double down on your network security. Check out the following tips if that’s you.

#5 Try custom firmware

We’ve been talking about how customizing your network leads to better security. One of the best ways to do this is changing the firmware altogether. There are plenty of choices that will give you much greater personalization settings.

Simply connect your router up via Ethernet and download the firmware package. Next, head to the configuration page for the router and install the firmware from there.

If you like the sound of custom firmware, we have a couple of recommendations. DD-WRT is one of the best and by far the most well-known. [3]

It’s easy to install, it’s stable and efficient. Or, you could opt for Fresh Tomato – the latest in the Tomato firmware series. It’s not quite as versatile but it’s a little easier to use.

#6 Network segmentation through VLAN

The best routers will allow you to set up VLANs (virtual local area networks). These allow you to separate devices within the same network.

So, if one device becomes compromised, it’ll be isolated and not compromise other devices. If this isn’t available in the router configuration page, it might not be available for your router.

#7 Setup MAC address filtering

A surefire way to keep unwanted devices away from your network is MAC address filtering. Here, only the devices you approve can access your network. That’s even if they know the password!

Again, you can set this up from the router configuration page in most cases. You should see an option for MAC filtering in there. Just toggle it on and set it up as prompted.

Protecting devices on the network

Upgrading your router security is one thing, but it’s important to protect individual devices as well.

The protection available does, of course, depend on the device. But generally, you can apply each of the following to most network devices.

#8 Set a secure password

Once again, start with the basics. If your iPhone password is ‘0000’ or your computer password is ‘password’, you’re putting yourself at risk. If someone can access a device on your network, they can access the whole network.

To change your device password, just head into the settings on the device itself. Ensure that any handheld device passwords are at least 6 figures (not your birthday!).

Computer passwords, again, should be nothing personal and easily guessable.

#9 Scrutinise all downloads

The worst thing you can do is to download something that will compromise your network. This isn’t as rare as you might think. 

Lots of websites will try to force downloads (often program files) onto your device. When these are opened, they can install malware.

You might want to turn off automatic download accepting on your browser. Just head into the browser settings to do this. And as a rule of thumb, never open a file you’re not sure about.

#10 Never ‘jailbreak’ a device

Rule 101. Jailbreaking devices seriously compromise the security of a device. As tempting as it can be for any reason, it’s simply not worth it. 

Jailbroken devices are easily accessible to hackers who can then go on to access your entire home or workplace network. [4]

If you’re not sure what jailbreaking actually is, allow us to explain. It’s effectively the process of installing a third-party operating system on a device. 

The developers of this software expose flaws in the original software and override them. This gives you the ability to be more ‘free’ with your device and customize it further.

#11 Install anti-virus software

Device viruses are one of the main ways for attackers to infiltrate your network. A great way to keep them out is with anti-virus software. 

This software scans your computer for viruses regularly and helps you to clear them out.

Apple devices tend to be fairly virus-proof for the most part but even they allow you to install anti-virus software. 

Check out the likes of Norton and Avast. They make anti-virus software for all kinds of devices that are easy to download.

#12 Stay up to date

Just like with the router itself, updating each device on the network regularly is a great idea. 

We recommend switching on automatic updates for every device you own. You can do this from the respective devices’ settings.

Developers of router firmware will constantly be on the lookout for the latest viruses and other security threats. 

As such, they can battle them in new ways. Older firmware will be more vulnerable as it won’t know how to defend itself against newer hackers. 

Last thoughts on protecting your home network

Protecting your network at home or in the workplace is super important. And it doesn’t even have to be hard work.

 If you take the time to go through the steps we’ve discussed today, you’ll be a very difficult target for anybody trying to compromise your network security.

There’s really no need to spend a lot of money on an incredible router to fight all your problems for you. 

A good value one combined with some strong work of your own is all it takes to stay on top of security.

If you are thinking about protecting your home network with a router upgrade of some variety, that’s a solid choice. To find out some of our recommendations, check out our router reviews.

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