You don’t let just anyone walk through your front door. So why let just anyone access your wireless network? Securing your wireless network is the virtual equivalent of locking the door—you give authorized users easy access and prevent unwanted guests. Your wireless network involves multiple items: your router, your computer, and any devices with Wi-Fi capability like phones or tablets. Fortunately, it’s simple to implement wireless network security measures and protect your online activities.

Secure your wireless router

Simply put, a wireless router makes it possible for multiple devices to access the internet at the same time. To help protect all the data being transmitted back and forth, take a few minutes to secure your router by following the steps below.

1. Change the basic password settings on your wireless router. Most wireless routers come with a default password and network name. Change these settings to something only you and your family know. Your router’s instructions should tell you how.

2. Turn off identifier broadcasting. Wireless networks advertise their presence by sending out a signal to any Wi-Fi-enabled device within range. If you don’t want everyone to know you have a wireless system, you can turn off this feature by consulting the installation instructions that came with your router. You can also contact the customer service department of your Internet service provider (ISP) and tell them you want to “turn off identifier broadcasting.” Authorized users will still be able to use the system, but unauthorized signal interceptors won’t be able to find it.

3. Turn on encryption. Almost all wireless routers have Wi-Fi encryption, which converts transmissions over your network into a code to prevent unauthorized access. However, some routers require you to manually turn on encryption. Once again, the installation directions should explain how to do this.

Secure your computer and other internet-enabled devices

Once you’ve secured your wireless network, you’ll want to secure the devices that connect to the network.

1. Enable firewalls on your computer. Firewalls screen data coming in and out of computer networks, blocking unauthorized access and stopping traffic from unsafe internet sources. Your computer’s operating system likely came with a built-in firewall that you can turn on and off. Turn it on and leave it on unless you have installed separate firewall software.

2. Install anti-virus and anti-spyware programs on your computers. Viruses are computer programs designed to make your computer do something it wasn’t intended to do, like erase your files, for example. Spyware “spies” on you by monitoring the sites you visit and may attempt to access your personal information. Needless to say, these are definitely unwanted guests.

Your computer almost certainly came with anti-virus and anti-spyware programs already installed, sometimes offered on a trial basis. If not, or if you just want to beef up your protection, there are several good programs available for purchase. You may even have a program included with your internet service, so contact your ISP for information.

Once you have these programs installed, be sure to keep them up-to-date. Most will have an auto-update feature that lets you download updates when you’re online. Although it may seem convenient to click “remind me later,” it’s better just to spend a few minutes keeping your security software running at its best.

3. Secure your mobile devices. Even though they’re “mobile” devices, most of us use tablets, smartphones, and laptops at home much of the time on our own wireless network. Make sure each device’s software is up-to-date, as the updates usually fix some security vulnerabilities. Require a code to unlock each device. If your device is equipped, use a biometric authentication method like fingerprint or facial recognition to unlock it for use.

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Last Edited: December 4, 2017