Hackers Hate When You Lock Them Out! Must-Know Tips for a Secure Home Network
A guide for actionable strategies to shield you and your family’s digital identity.
Step into the realm of digital self-defense with my blog, where I illuminate the threats that loom over your home network and provide you with actionable strategies to shield you and your family’s digital identity. In an increasingly interconnected world, protecting your home network is crucial. Join me as I explore essential guidelines and practical steps to shield personal information from prying eyes.
COMPUTING AND SMART DEVICES RECOMMENDATIONS
Computing devices including computers, laptops, printers, mobile phones, tablets, security cameras, home appliances, and cars must all be secured to prevent attack.
Smart Devices, also known as "Internet of Things" (IoT) devices, encompass a wide range of home entertainment and utility devices. These include home monitoring systems, baby monitors, streaming video players, and video game consoles. Some of these devices have the capability to connect to the Internet, record audio, and/or capture video. However, it is crucial to implement robust security measures to prevent these devices from becoming a vulnerability in your home network. By taking proactive steps to enhance the security of these devices, you can ensure that they do not compromise the overall safety of your home.
1. Enable Firewall Capabilities
Ensure that your personally owned routing device is equipped with essential firewall capabilities to bolster the security of your network. Verify the presence of Network Address Translation (NAT) functionality, which safeguards internal systems by preventing external scanning at the network boundary. Note that wireless access points (WAPs) typically do not offer these capabilities, prompting the need for a separate router. If your ISP supports IPv6, confirm that your router is compatible with IPv6 firewall capabilities.
2. Secure Your Wireless Network
Implement WPA2 Encryption To maintain the confidentiality of your wireless communication, make sure your personal or ISP-provided Wireless Access Point (WAP) utilizes Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) encryption. When setting up WPA2, employ a robust passphrase consisting of 20 characters or more. Most computers and mobile devices currently support WPA2 encryption. When selecting a replacement device, ensure it is WPA2-Personal certified. Customize the default SSID to a unique identifier. Avoid hiding the SSID, as it does not enhance wireless network security and can potentially lead to compatibility issues.
3. Protect Against Unauthorized Access
Limit Administration to Internal Network Bolster the security of your network by disabling remote administration capabilities on your routing device, allowing network configuration changes exclusively from within your internal network. Additionally, disable Universal Plug-n-Play (UPnP) to prevent potential vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers. These precautions effectively close any potential avenues for unauthorized access, enhancing the overall security of your network.
4. Take Control of Administrator / Root Access
The administrator account possesses significant privileges, granting access to and potential modification of all system files and configurations. Malware can more effectively compromise your system when executed while you are logged in as an administrator, as it gains broader file access. Establish a non-privileged "user" account for regular activities like web browsing, accessing emails, and creating/editing files. Reserve the privileged account solely for maintenance tasks, software installations, and updates. Consider utilizing a personally owned routing device in conjunction with the modem/router provided by your ISP to maximize administrative control over your home network's routing and wireless features. Utilize modern router functionalities to create a separate wireless network for guest usage, prioritizing network segregation.
5. Cultivate Safe User Practices
Mitigate the risk of ransomware attacks by implementing secure user habits. Safeguard your data by regularly backing it up on external drives and portable media, ensuring they are disconnected when not actively in use. Minimize potential vulnerabilities by disabling or disconnecting wireless printer, fax, and phone lines when they are not required. Enhance network security by powering down access points during periods of inactivity. Instead of charging your mobile device with a desktop, utilize the power adapter for safer charging. Choose to turn off your desktop instead of leaving it in sleep mode and disconnecting the internet connection when the desktop is not in use.
6. Protect yourself from Eavesdropping.
Safeguard your privacy by taking proactive measures against eavesdropping. Disconnect digital assistants when they are not in use to minimize the risk of unauthorized recording or monitoring. Exercise caution around baby monitors, audio recordable toys, and digital assistants, ensuring that sensitive conversations are limited in their proximity. For devices such as toys, laptops, and monitoring equipment, consider covering cameras when they are not actively being utilized. Moreover, disable wireless connectivity for entertainment devices when they are not in use and disconnect internet access for devices that are infrequently used.
7. Strengthen Password Protection
It is crucial to prioritize the protection of passwords and challenge responses as they grant access to personal information. Ensure that your passwords are strong, unique for each account, and resistant to guessing. Avoid storing passwords and challenge question answers in plain text format, whether on your system or any location accessible to potential adversaries. Whenever possible, employ passphrases and enable multi-factor authentication to bolster security. Construct passphrases using multiple words, and ensure each account has its own unique passphrase.
8. Stay Secure with an Upgraded and Updated Operating System
Embrace the benefits of upgrading to a modern operating system that offers enhanced security features do not present in older versions. By utilizing the latest supported OS for your devices, such as desktops and laptops, you can make it harder for attackers to gain privileged access. Ensure maximum protection by enabling automatic updates within the operating system. In case automatic updates are unavailable, make it a practice to download and install patches and updates from a trusted vendor at least once a month.
9. Software Suite
Unleash the power of security software to fortify your defenses against malicious attacks. Choose a comprehensive security suite that offers a layered approach, including anti-virus, anti-phishing, anti-malware, safe browsing, and firewall functionalities. Whether integrated into your operating system or available as a separate product, these solutions provide robust safeguards. Stay vigilant with advanced endpoint detection and response software that leverages cloud-based reputation services to detect and prevent malware execution. Safeguard your data by implementing full disk encryption on laptops, ensuring that even if they are lost or stolen, your information remains secure.
INTERNET USAGE RECOMMENDATIONS
When it comes to using the internet at home, it's important to be aware of potential risks like Spear Phishing, malicious ads, email attachments, and untrusted applications. To protect your sensitive information, it is recommended to follow these guidelines while accessing the internet. It's worth noting that 88% of hacking incidents are caused by user error rather than configuration issues.
1. Strengthening Authentication Measures
Ensure that your router is equipped with robust authentication settings to bolster its security. Take precautions to safeguard your login passwords and minimize the potential for misuse of password recovery options. Disable the feature that allows websites or programs to remember passwords for convenience. Many online platforms utilize password recovery or challenge questions. To prevent attackers from exploiting personal information to answer these questions, consider providing deceptive answers to fact-based queries, ensuring they are distinct and memorable. Whenever feasible, embrace multi-factor authentication, such as secondary confirmation through phone/email, security questions, or trusted device identification.
2. Staying Cautious of Public Hotspots
When accessing public hotspots offered by establishments like coffee shops, hotels, or airports, it is crucial to exercise caution. These hotspots often have unknown infrastructure and weak security, making them vulnerable to malicious activity. If you find yourself needing to connect to the Internet while away from home, it is advisable to avoid direct use of public access. Refrain from logging into any personal accounts. Whenever possible, consider using the cellular network (such as mobile Wi-Fi or 3G/4G services) instead of public hotspots. This may require a service plan with a cellular provider. If you must use public Wi-Fi, ensure to utilize a trusted virtual private network (VPN). This will help protect your connection from malicious activities and monitoring. Additionally, remember to practice physical security in public places and avoid leaving your devices unattended.
3. Follow Best Practices for Email Usage
• Exercise caution with attachments and links: Avoid opening attachments or clicking on links from unsolicited emails. Practice good cyber hygiene by refraining from opening emails from unknown sources. Verify the sender's identity through secondary methods such as phone calls or in-person communication. If verification fails, delete the email. For emails with embedded links, manually open a web browser and directly navigate to the website using its well-known web address or search for the site using a reputable search engine.
• Use unique passwords for each account: To prevent the reuse of compromised passwords, ensure that you use a different password for each account. It is also advisable to periodically change your passwords to enhance security.
• Limit usage of out-of-office messages: Unless necessary, avoid using the out-of-office message feature. By doing so, you make it more challenging for unknown parties to gather information about your activities or status.
• Utilize secure email protocols: Always use secure email protocols, especially when accessing your email through a wireless network. Configure your email client to utilize options like TLS (Secure IMAP or Secure POP3) to ensure encrypted communication.
• Beware of outlandish claims and offers: Exercise skepticism when encountering emails that make unbelievable claims or present offers that seem "too good to be true." These emails often serve as bait for scams and potential threats.
4. Exercise Caution on Social Networking Sites
Social networking sites offer a convenient way to share personal information with friends and family. However, it's essential to be aware of the risks associated with this convenience. To safeguard yourself, please consider the following precautions:
• Avoid sharing sensitive personal information: Refrain from posting details such as your address, phone number, workplace, and other personally identifiable information that could be exploited to target or harass you. Scammers may use this information, along with details like your pet's name or streets you've lived on, to guess answers to security questions and gain unauthorized access to your accounts.
• Limit access to your information: Adjust your privacy settings to ensure that only trusted friends have access to your personal information. Be cautious of accepting friend requests from unfamiliar individuals and verify their authenticity through means outside of the social networking platform.
• Apply email best practices to social networking: Refer to the best practices for email safety, particularly when it comes to handling unsolicited requests and links. Exercise caution and skepticism when encountering suspicious messages or requests on social networking sites.
5. Adopt a Modern Browser
Step into the future of browsing by adopting a modern browser and ensuring it remains updated. With their enhanced capabilities, contemporary browsers effectively notify users about any neglected or disabled security features, ensuring the protection of sensitive information during its transit across the Internet. Maintaining an up-to-date browser is essential to establish a secure online environment. As you engage in activities like account logins and financial transactions, the presence of a secure URL tab will assure you that proper transit security measures are in place.
6. Do Not Exchange Home and Work Content
To mitigate the risk of compromising work systems, it is vital not to exchange home and work content via email or removable media. Such exchanges may increase the risk of compromising work systems. Whenever possible, it is advisable to use equipment and accounts provided by the organization for work purposes when away from the office. If a personal device is used, such as in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program, it is important to adhere to corporate-mandated security products and follow the guidance provided for accessing corporate resources and networks. It is preferable to connect to a remote desktop or terminal server within the corporate network rather than transferring files between devices. It is recommended to avoid using personal accounts and resources for business interactions and always use a VPN to establish a secure, encrypted connection to corporate networks.
7. Employ Distinct Devices for Various Tasks
Forge a sense of reliance by considering the security attributes and intended applications of individual devices. To promote efficiency and security, it is prudent to divide tasks among separate devices designed for specific purposes. For instance, allocate one device exclusively for financial or personally identifiable information (PII), and reserve another solely for children's games or entertainment.
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