Hacking. You hear about it all the time–on the news, in the mail, even in the Presidential Election. You get notifications in the mail offering one year of credit protection because you used your card at a store that was breached. Your bank issues you a new card due to a hack. Hospitals, police stations, and government offices are paying ransoms to get their data back. As more and more devices connect to the internet, cyber security has never been more necessary. 

To prevent being a victim of a hack, certain steps should be practiced to reduce your risk. Among the most important of these, backing up your data. With the rise of ransomware and malicious viruses, keeping your data secure is never a guarantee. There are services that deal in data recovery, however, avoiding such losses will save you time and money. Best practices for keeping your data secure include maintaining a secure network and ensuring regular backups are performed.

Most homes operate a wireless network, ensuring you are using the best practices for securing your wireless network will significantly reduce your chances of falling victim to a hack. Securing your network will help negate the possibility of your neighbor stealing your internet bandwidth, or even stealing your personal information with tools like WireShark. If you’re connect to the internet, you run the risk of falling victim to identity theft. Follow these 10 steps to keep your network secure.

  1. Find your internet router, usually connected to a phone, ethernet, or cable port. Take note of the make and model number of your router on a piece of paper.
  2. Open up a command prompt by pressing the Windows key on your keyboard and type cmd into the search box. A new window will appear, type ipconfig at the prompt and press enter to execute.
  3. In the new window, under Local Area Connection, locate the IP address next to Default Gateway and write it down. Typically it starts with 192.168…
  4. With your router’s IP address, open up a browser and enter the IP address into the address bar and hit enter.
  5. This should access your router’s graphical user interface, allowing you to make changes to your home network. If you have not accessed your router before you will need to locate the login information. You can find the default login and password with a Google search using the make and model of the router you have. Be sure to change your password after you are able to access your router. This is the first step in securing your network.
  6. Under the router’s security setting, make sure that WPA2 with AES and TKIP encryption is selected. Ensure that WEP encryption and WPS are not selected. WEP is an old encryption algorithm that is easily exploited. Wifi Protected Setup is a feature that allows a user to push a button to connect a device to your network. This is also easily exploited with the Reaver program.
  7. Change your WPA2 password, ensuring it is random and alphanumeric.
  8. Change the router name (SSID) to a name that will not inform a hacker of any personal information, including the brand of router. By default, a lot of routers will broadcast the model of your router, giving a hacker a leg up when trying to exploit your network.
  9. You can hide your SSID as well, eliminating public broadcasts from your router. Although, this is an additional measure of security, it can be easily found by a hacker with mediocre skills and should be treated as another layer of security. Hiding your wireless network from public broadcasts will require you to connect to a hidden network on all future devices you wish to connect to your network.
  10. In your router’s settings, there will likely be an option named range, telling the router how far to broadcast its signal. Play around with the range settings, ideally keeping your wireless signal to the confines of your home and not broadcasting to your neighbors.

Sadly, many Americans aren’t worried about a cyber attack until it’s too late. Following these steps takes you one step closer to securing your personal data. Backing up your data regularly will ensure you never lose important data, even in the event of a hack. In the event of a data breach, you will be able to simply restore your most recent backup and continue working.