Whether you’re at home or at work, your local network carries a ton of sensitive information. All your personal information, your financial data, your personal emails, your browsing habits, your communications and everything else you virtually deem secure is held within your local network.
At the office, the amount of sensitive data that is moved around is tenfold. Not only are you and your coworker’s personal data at risk but the company’s sensitive data as well. All the financial transactions, accounts, client lists, marketing material and other proprietary information are all floating around in little packets of information. If the company is using VOIP all the communications are at risk too
Now, with all this important information moving around, what if some malicious individual were to intercept all this information? If someone were to get a hold of these credit card details, financial transactions or email passwords, it could lead to larceny, identity theft, fraud and more.
There are a ton of things that can be done to secure your network. There are the basic and essential few and if you’re really paranoid, there are some more intricate precautions you can take. For now, we’ll list a few simple steps that you can take to lock your network down further.
Do Not Use the Default Password
Every manufacturer ships their product with a default password set in place. These passwords are standard and used in all of their products. They’re not even hidden, they are broadly advertised. With a simple Google search, you can find the default password of any given brand. Like DLink, LinkSys and NetGear. These passwords are intended to be used only once. They should only be used for the first time you log into the product. After you’re in, the first thing you should do is change it.
Set Strong Passwords:
There’s a reason why most websites ask you to set a more intricate password. They’ll ask you to use at least one capital letter, one number and one symbol. The reason is because it makes the password harder to crack. Computers can make trillions of guesses a minute. A simple and short password can take less than 10 minutes to crack. By using capitals, numbers and symbols, you keep them guessing. The ideal password would be a phrase. A phrase containing random, unrelated words. Something like “Leprechaun_Door/Eating_3″ could take days to crack. Here is a great tool to test some of your potential passwords.
Change Your Device’s Default Name
Just like the password, the name of the device is also set to a default ID(SSID). This can also be easily found. A Google search isn’t even needed at times since the default ID usually includes the manufacturer’s name.
Use a VPN to access your Resources Securely
A Virtual Private Network is a virtual and secure version of a physical network. Allowing you to connect to a network through another –which isn’t your own. The information transmitted between the two networks is heavily encrypted and cannot be read by anyone outside the two parties. A VPN is great for connecting multiple networks securely. For this reason, many businesses rely on these virtual networks to share servers and other resources. A VPN can also be used between multiple offices or even between your devices at home. A great tool to use is OpenVPN which uses SSL encryption for all the data traveling between multiple networks.
Avoid Public WiFi
This is the biggest PSA in network security. This is the equivalent of Smokey The Bear’s forest fire rule. I know it maybe tempting to join an open network. When you’re low on data and come across complimentary internet access at places like Starbucks and other restaurants – it’s hard not to take advantage of that. A free and unrestricted network on someone else’s dime.
However, it also happens to be a cesspool riddled with users of all types. From the innocent browsers to the diabolical hackers. By joining a public network, your essentially walking all your sensitive information through a dark tunnel and hoping that it makes it out unscathed. If you absolutely need to access the internet using a public network, make sure that it is an “encrypted” network.
Always be sure to visit websites that use SSL encryption when on a public network. You can easily tell if SSL is being used by looking for a lock icon next to the website’s name or if the URL begins with “https://”. DO NOT enter your credit card information or passwords at websites that don’t have the lock icon next to the name or begin with “https://”.
Encrypt Your Data
Your device will encrypt your information by default, so it should be secure right out of the box. However, some devices use WEP or WPA encryption by default. WEP & WPA encryption is a dated encryption form that can now be cracked within minutes with freely available tools like aircrack. When you login to your device, be sure to chose WPA2 encryption. If you’re really paranoid, you have the ability to add another layer of encryption like SSL.
A lot of today’s malicious software is spread through obtrusive advertising. Software like Adblock Edge and UBlock can not only help block those annoying ads but they can also keep malware and adware off your network.
Use Password Managers
As easy as it is to ask your browser or favorite website to save your passwords – don’t do it. The mere fact that your credentials are stored anywhere on the internet puts them at risk. Your best option is to use password manager. A password manager helps you store all of your passwords into one strongly kept database. A database that is encrypted with the most secure encryption algorithms, keeping your passwords locked down. A great tool is KeePass, a free and open source password manager. The database will be accessible from your laptop, desktop or phone.
All the steps are available for every device of every brand. With a simple Google search, you’ll see that these steps are just a few clicks away. While there is a lot more one can do to completely lock their network down, the steps listed above should be enough to keep you safe.