Keeping your home network secure

Tuesday 01 April 2014

 Time for some spring cleaning. First, if you read my password article you’ll get some great tips on making your online data more secure. With technology moving faster than anyone could ever have dreamed, so too are password hackers as they get stronger by the day.

Big Brother is watching

After the recent hacks at several retailers, like the Christmas time hack at Target, people are becoming more aware that hackers are stealing credit cards. We've heard that the NSA is spying on anyone who picks up a cellphone or writes an email and ad trackers are watching our every internet move, click and purchase.

As if that wasn't enought, there is more. There have been a string of recent reports of router vulnerabilities.

BitScan_network safety

I know, it’s gettingrough out there but finding out early is best,

so that you can take the needed steps before the hackers, malware and key loggers

are on your computer and taking off with all your private data

not to mention your bitcoin.

 Backdoors have been found in NetGear and Linksys routers, which are two of the biggest sellers. A host of other brand names including D-Link, Micronet, Tenda and others have also been the subject of mass attacks that let hackers hijack your browser, produce fake search results, and download malware into all the devices connected to your network.

Yes, it’s possible and it’s happening. So, what to do to protect your router and save money too?

Many service providers give you a cable or DSL modem with a built-in router. These steps still work for combined units. First, let's protect your router. There are three simple steps:

1) You need to do a geeky thing called "updating the firmware."

Every router maker’s process is a little different, but here's the basic outline:

First, find your router's program on your computer. Fire it up and it should automatically find your device. If you don't have a router program, look up your router's manual online and see what the device's IP address is. Type the number that corresponds to your router’s address into your browser and enter the default login password found in the manual. While you're in the router settings, make sure to change the default login password that came with the router.

There should be a button labeled "update firmware." Hit that and go through the process. That will, at least in theory, provide the company's latest protection. (Bonus: It might increase your device's performance, too.)

2) Make sure you turn on wireless encryption and provide a strong password.

StrBitScan_wifi securityong passwords are a MUST for your future safety. Luckily for your home network you just have to enter it once for each gadget. Just remember to keep it memorized or written down in a safe place in case you forget it.

Because it seems computer manufacturers want to make our life more complicated, we are confronted with another blinding array of complicated acronyms when it comes to choosing what encryption to set.

Look around for an option to secure the network using WPA2. It's the best protection currently available.

It's smart to put in a long and complex password.

Again, it's a pain, but it will make your network secure from anything but industrial-strength attacks.

You should spend a few minutes at https://howsecureismypassword.net/ By typing in your password, you can see how secure your password is and how long it would take a hacker to brute force attack your system and steal your password. Here are some I tried for fun. It can truly be scary…

PASSWORD TIME TO HACK
mydogbetsy 9 hours
yap949 0.54 seconds
myry4662 11 minutes
123qwerty 7 hours
asdlkj789 7 hours
susanKEN 3 hours
pw4google 7 hours
As&Df*Gh( 78 days
thedogdays 9 days
tHegOg INSTANT
0104198004112000 28 days

 

As you can see, these passwords above are going to leave you very vulnerable. Take a look at the few below and you will see the kinds of passwords you should be transitioning to ASAP.

Starting with just adding an asterisk to the numerical password above and you’ll see how 28 days can become 4 million years…

01041980*04112000       4 Million Years

The mixing in of symbols and some capitalization will really help. You should start thinking of well-known or personal phrases and the adding of some words and not others and some on and off capitalization and symbol mixing. For instance, in the next few examples, I will use well known sayings to create very secure passwords. You have all heard, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” By adding a few caps, an entire word and a symbol, we have a safe password. The other two are “123 o’clock 4 o’clock rock and “you ain’t nothing but a hound dog.”

DouoaywouldhtduYOU!     392 Quadrillion Years

123oclock4oclock(roCK)       2 Septillion Years

YouAINTn0thingBAhd      A Quadrillion Years

With a safe password, you can continue to protect your home network.

BitScan securing home network

3) Finally, take your router offline and make it invisible to passers-by. In the settings, turn off SSID (or network name) broadcasting.

This keeps your network hidden unless you know the name. Be sure to change the network name to something that's hard for someone to guess. No, not your family name or your dog’s name... “BusterWiFi” is an easy guess. It won't foil the most dedicated bad guys going around sniffing the networks, but it should stop casual hackers and snoops. Now your router is safe from attacks.

Next, make sure you have the fastest modem available to you. Most cable customers are paying monthly for a cable modem rental. If that's your deal, a DOCSIS 3 modem is advisable – or an upgrade if not. Your internet services provider (ISP) should provide this for free.

Finally, there's your wireless router. You should look into the type of router you have and make sure it is an 802.11n standard. If it's 802.11 b or 802.11g, you should know those are very old standards. The cost of a new "n" one will really be worth it in terms of speed and usability. If you are buying a new router, consider whether you're going to be getting a new computer or tablet soon. If so, consider paying a little extra for the newest standard or 802.11ac. That won't help the older computers, but it's a speedy step forward for routers and might be worth it if getting new devices that adhere to that standard.

While in your router settings, you should be able to see a list of the devices that are using your network.

It’s good sometimes to have everyone in your house stop using it for a few minutes

and logon to your router to see if your neighbor, who is always so friendly, is friendly because

he doesn’t pay for internet and uses yours instead.

Hopefully you see only those devices you allow are using your internet signal.

Now that your home network, router and modem are safe, you can consider holding some bitcoin.

Next I will discuss your computer's safety including malware and key loggers, viruses and screen capture technology. With your passwords strong, your computer safely scanned and your growing knowledge and awareness of what is going on around you, you can feel safe as you start to explore the future of internet currency. Welcome to bitcoin.

As Always… Be Alert – Be Accurate – Be Aware


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