Who doesn't love Wi-Fi? The ability to wirelessly stream movies and connect to the Internet from all kinds of devices - tablets, laptops, smartphones, etc. - anywhere in the house is a beautiful thing! But we rarely stop to think about the technology that makes such magic possible. It just works - at least most of the time.
While devices such as routers and modems tend to be "out of sight and out of mind" for most of us, the home network is a critical piece of home technology puzzle because, in addition making it possible for everyone in the household to connect to the Internet, it serves as the hub for the home automation and entertainment systems home tech pros routinely install.
If the network is doing its job, family members will be able to get online from anywhere in the house quickly and efficiently without having to worry about whether data is being intercepted by an unscrupulous individual as it travels through the air.
Security is one of the most important factors to consider when planning a wireless network, according to the "Network Security Best Practices" report published by the CEDIA Technology Council. Leaving network equipment with its default settings intact and "hoping for the best" is like leaving home without locking the doors or leaving the garage open: It puts personal information at risk, making it vulnerable to malicious and potentially destructive attacks.
"Attackers will often search for networks that have been poorly secured," the report cautions. Wireless networks are particularly vulnerable because hackers can gain access from any location within their transmission range. And once they're in, they can piggyback onto Internet services and damage or steal information stored on any computer connected to the network.
Keeping Your Home Network Safe and Sound
The upshot: Steps must be taken to decrease the likelihood of attack and, in some cases, prevent attackers from even knowing the network exists. The report offers the following advice, starting with the most basic actions:
- Choose a secure router that has a built-in firewall and make sure its firmware is up to date
- Change the default administrator username and password
- Don't share the administrator password
- Turn off wireless routers when they're not in use
- Make sure virus scanning and security software is regularly updated
- Manually configure built-in security features, ideally, during initial setup
- Use WPA or WPA2 security
- Avoid using the older WEP security standard because it can be easily hacked
- Make sure all devices on the network support the chosen security method
- Disable the router's ability to be configured from its WAN (Internet) port and to "Respond to Ping from the Internet"
- Disable "SSID broadcast" to shield the network from public view
- Disable DMZ, which opens the firewall to all traffic
- Manage Wi-Fi signal strength so that it does not extend beyond the property
While this list is by no means comprehensive, it sheds some light on the steps home technology professionals take to ensure network security. To learn more about setting up and maintaining a safe home network, consult a CEDIA professional. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member home technology professionals in your area.