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A Beginners Guide to a Secure Home Computer Network

By Edited Feb 9, 2016 1 1

With an ever-increasing number of wireless Internet devices, more homes are switching to wi-fi networks to connect smartphones, iPads, laptops and an array of other gadgets and gizmos. With more wireless networks though comes more opportunity for opportunists to browse your network, use your Internet connections and even upload virus’ to your computers. Within minutes, we can build you a secure home computer network and make sure you’re defended and not a statistic.

A fully protected wireless network will offer many levels of security and will deter the opportunist hacker, beginner hacker and most “script-kiddies.” To do this is not as difficult as people would think and once at this point, the hacker is likely to need to use techniques that would cost more in time and effort, than the likely rewards.

Every computer user must have a degree of intelligence and awareness when on their computer, online or on messaging services.

I can not stress enough that the security of your home computer network is only as strong as its weakest link and that can often be you, whether it is by making your password “Password”, or clicking on the pop-up that says

CLICK HERE

YOU’VE WON A CAR”;

Human interaction is usually the downfall of any fully secured home computer network.

 

What You Need To Secure Your Computer Network

  • Your home network router’s password
  • Some time
  • Pen and Paper to write down your passwords

Accessing Your Computer Network Router

IP Address

This first step might need a bit of research on your part. Router manufacturers do things differently and accessing your router might vary. Firstly you should consult your router instructions on how to use its settings. This is usually via your web browser but some routers need you to install programs from their supplied software.

When accessing through a browser you usually have to enter the IP address that the network has assigned to the router; usually to be found in your router instructions. The IP address will be formed of 4 groups of up to 3 number in the format 000.000.000.000 but some of the common ones are:

  • 192.168.1.1 : 3Com, ASUS, D-Link, Dell, Linksys, Telnet
  • 192.168.100.1 : Ambit
  • 192.168.0.1 : D-Link, Linksys, Netgear, Sitecom

Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) put this information on the bottom of the router so that customers have it written down somewhere, along with the second piece of information you need; the password to the router.

Password Access

When you first enter your IP address into the Internet browser, you must enter a username and password. If you have never changed this then it this will be in the instruction manual or the underside of your router and the generic passwords loaded onto routers are generally very obvious; PASSWORD, ADMIN, 12345, etc.... usually the first passwords an opportunity hacker looks for to gain access to your system.

Securing Your Wireless

Passwords

Password access to your wireless home network is sometimes missed; especially if the router is usually for wired (Ethernet) connections to desktop computers. Having no password is as bad as using the default passwords for security and your home computer network and Internet access is at risk unless they are secure.

Router Change Password
The most important password to secure is the one that accesses the router controlling your secure home computer network. Even routers supplied by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) have a generic password access for your router and this is usually case-sensitive. As you can see from the screen image of my router (A TP-Link TL-WR1043ND Ultimate Wireless N Gigabit Router for a UK based cable Internet connection  I recommend it!) there is usually a limit to what you can use; you can also see that it is in the System Tools menu – computer network router do vary though.

Failing to secure this can allow hackers to take control of your computer network and even prevent you using it!

WiFi Change Passkey
You must also encrypt the wireless connection itself. This is essentially a password to the network; although the more technically minded will know that it is actually the way that the information is broadcast, requiring the same key on the computer receiving that information to decrypt it.

Older routers will only offer Wireless Encryption Protocol which to most hackers and script-kiddies is easy to crack; encryption using WPA or WPA2 is more secure and if you can afford a small financial investment, replacing WEP-only routers will only make your secure home computer network much more secure.

Change Your Network Name

A Scan of My Local Wireless Neighbourhood
An easy way for a hacker to guess your password is to know what router you have. A quick scan around my local area shows a few generic routers set up, which would make guessing the password either easier, or (in the case of some ISP routers) simply a case of downloading the spreadsheet of keys widely available on the Internet.

Changing the network name can make this task more difficult – in your wireless settings there will be an option to set the Wireless Network Name or SSID. Be wary of changing it to something that will name your physical location though as this might be useful to anyone who is looking to break in and steal computer equipment.

If you only have a few wireless devices to connect to your home computer network, then once these are actively able to connect there is little need for the router to broadcast its SSID and disabling this has no impact to devices already configured to connect.

Limiting Your Network

MAC Filtering

Far from being something exclusive to Apple, MAC filtering is effective at securing your home computer network because your router has a list of what devices can connect to it.

Router MAC Filter
MAC filtering is based on the unique address given to each device that is built. As you can see from my image here; I have an Acer laptop, Blackberry, Xbox and a computer in the bedroom which are allowed to use my network; anything else will automatically be rejected.

Some equipment will come with the MAC address published on it somewhere; Blackberry’s for example have it under the battery on the same label as the devices IMEI number.

Computer Network Firewalls

All desktop computers, laptops and other devices in your home should have adequate anti-virus and firewall protection; but many routers now also come with a firewall built in to protect your network from attacks coming in via the Internet. Wherever possible, it is best to make sure that this is switched on so that you have another wall of defence on top of the software firewall on your computer.

The only thing that you must remember however is that some software may need to be specifically authorised through the firewall. By a rule of thumb this will either be mentioned in the installation process or instructions for the software, or you may have had to grant it permissions on your Windows installation.

Additional Costly Options

There are finally a number of costly options that are usually for commercial operations where the security of credit card information, documentation or other sensitive data is kept within secure computer network. This involves building or purchasing a separate range of computer equipment to create an authentication server and involves specific and often expensive software to do this, which many of the large software houses offer such as Microsoft and Cisco.

A Secure Home Computer Network

By following the information above, your home wireless network is now much more secure. It by no means guarantees that your secure computer network will never be attacked or even breached, but unless you are specifically being targeted, the opportunist or mediocre hacker will move on and find a less secure target.

As I said at the beginning though, the majority of failures in the security of a secure computer network is due to human error, so next time you find a pop-up in the middle of your screen saying that you have won an Internet Lottery that you never entered.... ask yourself if you can win the National Lottery that you never entered.

 
 
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Comments

Jun 1, 2012 11:37pm
Pindar
A great, very thorough and well written guide.
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