Stop Wi-Fi Hackers in Their Tracks

October 15, 2016 | Patricia Wuest

Follow our simple steps to ensure your Wi-Fi is secure from digital intruders

If you are very attached to your desktop computer, laptop, tablet or mobile device, you may be using a home-based wireless network as an efficient way to stay connected to the web, no matter which device you’re using. Commonly called Wi-Fi, a wireless network consists of a modem, which “translates” the data signal from your Internet provider, and a router, which broadcasts, or routes, that signal wirelessly throughout your home to your Wi-Fi-enabled devices (computers, tablets, smartphones, etc.).

Unfortunately, your wireless network also makes you vulnerable to hackers — and the serious headaches they cause when they steal personal information or use your network to do illegal things.

Don’t make a malicious hacker’s job easy. These 5 tips will prevent them from accessing your personal files or using your wireless network.

Tip No. 1. Change the name of your home wireless network

As soon as you set up your wireless network, change the SSID (Service Set Identifier). This is the name of your home network. Usually, router manufacturers assign the name of the company that produced the router (common names include Linksys, Cisco or Belkin). Hackers know the common names and retaining these names (along with the default passwords; see Top No. 2) can make it easy for them to access your network. Do not use your name or your family name — if someone is trying to hack into your network, your SSID shouldn’t tell them which network is yours.

Tip No. 2.  Change default administrator passwords

Wi-Fi networks include an embedded web server and web pages that allow owners to enter their network address and account information. The default user names and passwords for popular models of wireless network gear are well-known to hackers and are even posted on the internet. Change yours to one that is not easy to guess. Create one that uses upper and lower case letters, numbers, and/or symbols.

Tip No. 3.  Turn on wireless network encryption

All Wi-Fi equipment supports some form of encryption. An encryption technology scrambles messages sent over wireless networks so that they cannot be easily read by humans.

Tip No. 4. Position the router in a safe place

If your Wi-Fi signal reaches the outside of your home (a small amount is OK), move your router near the center of your house rather than near windows. This will help minimize leakage and prevent others from accessing your network.

Tip No. 5. Disable the wireless network when you’re away from home for long periods

This will save power and stop hackers from listening in on your network’s traffic while you’re away.

My Internet for Seniors by David Miller is a useful resource for older adults. This book covers everything you need to connect your computer, tablet or smartphone to the internet and start accessing websites, email, social networks and more. Topics include choosing the right browser, using social media, and how to stay safe and secure while online. It’s available from amazon.com.

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