Your home’s wireless internet network — and any devices that use it — may be vulnerable to hackers. Learn how to protect yourself from home network invasion.
Having Wi-Fi in your home makes life convenient. Gone are the days of needing cables to access the internet. Now, all your devices can connect wirelessly to your own personal internet network. But this convenience comes with a danger …
Other people may be trying to connect to your network too. It could simply be someone using your internet without permission. Or it could be someone trying to steal your personal information.
Read on to learn how to detect hackers on your network and how to protect your home from cyber invasion.
6 Signs Your Home Network Has Been Hacked
1. There is an unrecognized device on your network. There’s an easy way to see what devices are on your network. Type your router’s IP address into your browser’s URL bar (you can usually find the IP address printed right on the back of your router). In a section called Device List or Attached Devices, you can see what devices are associated with your network. Some may only be named, but others probably will be listed by their IP addresses. You’ll need to check your devices (e.g., laptops, phones, tablets, printers, and TVs) to see if these IP addresses are all yours. If any of the IP addresses don’t match up, you might have an intruder.
2. Your internet is unusually slow. Don’t panic. There can be lots of reasons for slow internet. Your router may be old, out of date, or simply in a poor location. Your internet service provider may have throttled your bandwidth if they think you are using too much for your subscription level. But a slow connection could be a sign of unauthorized devices on your network or of spyware/malware on your devices. Make sure your devices and network are secure.
3. Your firewall is mysteriously disabled or uninstalled. You can check to see if your firewall is turned on by visiting the security and privacy section of your computer’s system preferences. Just because it is off does not mean you need to panic. Your firewall may never have been turned on. For example, the default on MacBooks is to have the firewall turned off. If you know it was turned on, however, and now it is mysteriously off, that could be a sign of malware.
4. Your computer starts operating on its own. If cursors are moving on their own, files are changing mysteriously, or anything else seems to be happening on your computer without you having done something to cause it, that could mean a hacker has gained remote access to your computer.
5. Your web browser’s default home page changes. If your default browser (the page that appears when you first open the internet) suddenly changes or starts redirecting you to an unfamiliar page, it is likely your home network been hacked. It could be a browser redirect virus and may send you to spoof websites where a hacker will try to harvest your personal or financial information.
6. An unknown program asks you for access. Legitimate programs may ask you for access to your network. But if you don’t recognize the program making the request, that is a red flag.
6 Steps to Protect Your Home Network
1. Change your router’s password and name. Many routers come with default passwords that hackers could guess. Change both your Wi-Fi network password and your router admin password to secure passwords. Do not share the admin password.
Also, the default Wireless Network Name (SSID) usually tells others what kind of router you have and can help hackers identify vulnerabilities. Change it to something unique, but do not use your name, home address, or other personal information in your new SSID name.
2. Set up a guest network. Your router may let you set up a guest network that has a different network name and password. A guest network means you do not have to share your primary Wi-Fi network password with anyone else. Also, in case a guest has malware on their phone or tablet, a guest network can prevent it from getting on your primary network and your devices.
3. Keep your router up to date. You can check for updates by visiting the manufacturer’s website. You may even be able to register your router with the manufacturer to sign up to get updates. If your Internet Service Provider (ISP) — for example, Verizon, Comcast, or Spectrum — provided your router, check with them to see whether they send out automatic updates.
4. Enable your router’s firewall. This firewall is helpful in several ways. It stops the devices on your network from accessing potentially malicious sites. And it can also keep intruders out of your network.
5. Enable wireless encryption. Encrypting scrambles the information sent through your network, which protects your privacy and makes it harder for other people to access your personal information. Check your router settings. If it is supported by your device, use Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 or 3 (WPA2 or WPA3). Older routers may only have WPA or WEP. These are outdated and less secure. You can try updating your router software, then checking to see if WPA2 or WPA3 is now available. If they are not, consider purchasing a newer router. And when possible, choose wired connections over wireless for added security.
6. Protect your devices. Check all your devices to make sure they are secure. If one is not, it could give a hacker access to your personal information, your network, and your other devices.
- Use trusted anti-virus software. It can detect suspicious activity and notify you right away.
- Change the default usernames and passwords. And avoid reusing passwords. Hackers can use stolen usernames and passwords from data breaches to hack into your other accounts.
- Use two-factor authentication if your device offers it. Usually this means you need a password plus something else, like a code sent to your phone or email or a thumbprint scan.
- Update devices regularly. Just like your router, you want all your software to be up to date.
- Disable or disconnect devices and features you do not use. If you don’t need remote access or location services turned on, turn them off. Each can be an opening that makes your device a little less secure. If you have an old device you rarely use, disconnect it. Its security is likely out of date.
Heritage Bank cares about keeping our customers and their private financial information safe. To learn about other types of fraud, visit https://www.ourheritage.bank/Fraud.
Heritage Bank. Member FDIC.