This is just one step in a series created to help anyone improve their online safety, regardless of their technical knowledge. For more information, check out our full series on simple online security.
Your Wi-Fi router, whether built into your modem or connected to your modem by an Ethernet cable, is the device that broadcasts a network to which your computers and devices connect. If your router is not configured correctly, it can also be a potential doorway for someone else to enter your home network. Setting up your network securely only takes a few steps, but the router you have will determine how easy the process is. Each router brand has a different interface, so we can’t provide specific instructions here, but the four modifications we recommend are the same for each router.
- Set a good Wi-Fi password: Since someone has to be near the router to access your Wi-Fi network, you don’t have to go crazy with your password, but it has to be at least 12 characters and not something special. ‘obvious as a name or address. And since you’ll likely be giving visitors your password to use, it helps to choose a pronounceable passphrase instead of a random string. Creating a passphrase, as you can with a tool like 1Password’s “rememberable password” option, is a great way to create a unique yet memorable password.
- Change the default Wi-Fi router password: Your router’s admin password is different from your Wi-Fi password. Some routers, especially older ones, have a default admin password like “password” or “1234”, so it is Good to change the default so no one on your home network can change the settings. If you’ve never connected to your router before, the process can be a little tricky (you do it by typing a number string into the URL bar of your computer’s browser), but this How-To Geek guide can help you figure out your router address. If you don’t know the default password, this page lists them all for each brand of router. Sometimes your ISP provides you with a modem-router combo unit, but you can usually change the settings even on this type of model. Once you find your way into the router’s admin panel, change the default password to something unique, then save it to your password manager.
- Use the strongest security settings: While changing admin and Wi-Fi passwords, it’s a good idea to check which security standard your router uses. Some older routers use a standard called WEP, which is outdated and insecure. Instead, search for WPA2-PSK or WPA3 and change the setting accordingly, if available. If not, it might be time to upgrade your router.
- Upgrade your firmware: Some modern routers support automatic firmware updates, but many others do not, so you may need to manually check for updates from time to time. Updating ensures that your router has the latest security patches and features.
Most other default router settings are fine for most people. Don’t activate anything if you don’t know how to use it or if you don’t know what it means. This rule of thumb is especially true for tools like Remote Access, which opens a router to the Internet and isn’t necessary for most people.
Learn more about router security.
This article was edited by Arthur Gies and Mark Smirniotis.