Summer Cyber-Secure Challenge: Home Internet

This is part five of the Summer Cyber Secure Challenge (click here to see part 4).

Is your home Wifi password-protected? If not, it needs to be! Your wireless router takes an internet connection from say, the cable company, and turns it into a wireless signal that your computer, phones, and tablets can utilize. To avoid sharing your Wifi with neighbors or strangers, keep a password on it. And if you haven’t updated your password in a while, it’s time–especially if yours is something simple like 1qaz2wsx. While we’re updating our Wifi settings, let’s also take a look at managing our Wifi router. Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as you think.

To do this challenge, have a piece of paper, pen, and some tape handy. Note that due to the variety of wireless routers out there, all of these instructions may not apply. If you are having trouble with a particular section, look up your router’s manual online.

Protect your home internet

Be the Administrator of Your Router

In this section, you’ll learn how to log in to your router’s management website.

Step 1. Locate the router and note its make and model on your piece of paper.

Step 2. Look up the default administrator username and password on routerdefaults.org. (Skip this step if you’ve updated your administrator password in the past.)

Step 3. Launch a browser on your computer while connected to the Wifi and type in either http://192.168.1.1 or http://192.168.0.1. The routerdefaults.org website may tell you to use a different address. The management website should appear. Write the address down on your paper.

Step 4. Log in with the administrator username and password.

Update Your Wireless Network Details

Once inside of your router’s management website, you can update wireless network settings.

Wireless Network Name (SSID)

If your wireless network’s name is the same as the router brand (e.g. Netgear), it’s a good idea to update the name. That way, anyone scouring the neighborhood for potentially vulnerable wireless networks isn’t able to immediately identify what kind of router you have. OK, that’s probably unlikely, but it’s also a good idea just in case you have neighbors with similar routers. It will avoid confusion over same-name Wifi networks.

On the management website, find a field known as the “Wireless Network Name” or SSID. Update it to something else but leave out personal details like your last name, birthday year, etc. CAUTION: Upon saving this setting, all current devices connected by Wifi will lose connectivity until you update your connection with the Wifi’s new name, including your computer.

Copy down the name to your piece of paper.

Wifi Password

Next, update the Wifi password. If this password is something simple, easy to guess,  popular OR was the original password that came with your router (sometimes an initial default SSID and password is provided on a sticker/paper inside the box), you’ll want to update it. Use a long password with some complexity. It can be a series of unrelated words strung together with some capitalization and numbers thrown in such as “RandomEightSkyGroundJumpTiger15”. CAUTION: Upon saving this setting, all current devices connected by Wifi will lose connectivity until you update the connection password, including your computer.

Make sure to also write this down on your piece of paper.

Encryption Strength

Wireless signals are encrypted to ensure that as the signal travels through the air, the data is scrambled and cannot be read by an unauthorized person (someone without your Wifi password) in the vicinity. In general, you should select the strongest encryption method available for your wireless router. This is often the last option in the list of encryption types. At the very least, select WPA2 which stands for Wi-Fi Protected Access 2. Do not use WEP, the older standard, which has already been cracked.

Administrator Password

If you are using the default administrator username and password (the one found on routerdefaults.org), you’ll want to change the administrator password. After all, everyone on the internet has access to this information! This is not the same as the password to your Wifi. This is the password to the Wifi router’s website–the one at http://192.168.1.1 or http://192.168.0.1 or other as instructed by routerdefaults.org.

Look for the administrator’s account settings. Update the password to something strong. Do NOT reuse any password you’ve used anywhere else. Write this down on your piece of paper along with the administrator’s username.

Finally, the Paper

At the end of this exercise, your paper should have this information on it:

Router Make and Model

Router Administration Website ex. http://192.168.1.1

Username: [administrator]

Password: [something strong and unique]

Wifi Name/SSID: [something interesting like “KnowledgePortal”]

Wifi Password: [something strong and unique]

Now, go tape this paper to your router!

Why Protect Your Internet Access

Here are some reasons you want to limit who uses your Wifi. First, selfishness. You’re paying the internet bill, so you want to make sure the resources are available for you and your family’s use. Connections may become slower with more users on the Wifi. Second, accountability. Imagine if someone was using your Wifi to browse explicit material or conduct illegal activities. That activity would be traced back to your home. Third, privacy. With more and more websites using encryption now (HTTPS), this is a lesser concern, but it’s still a possibility. When someone is sharing a network with you, as they are when connected to your Wifi, they potentially have access to the network traffic. When information is not being sent over encrypted channels (i.e. plain HTTP sites), it can be read.

Protect your internet access–it’s a digital asset for your home.

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