The COVID-19 pandemic has already inspired a historic wave of email scams. Your home network has never been more at risk, especially if any members of your household struggle with recognizing phishing attacks. But you can’t afford to compromise your personal information or that of your family.

You need to take steps now, if you haven’t already, to secure your home network. Don’t use the default login credentials for your router and network — change them. Install firewalls, antivirus software, and other security equipment. Segregate your IoT devices on their own network. And keep guests off your main network — you don’t know if their devices have been compromised.

1) Change Your Router’s Admin Credentials

First of all, if you’re using a router or gateway that you rent from your internet service provider (ISP), it’s time to open your Amazon app and order one of your very own. It’s cheaper in the long run — routers only cost about $100 or so, and you’re probably paying $10 to $15 a month to your ISP to rent one of theirs. A router you buy will be more secure, because it’ll be more likely to get regular security updates, and it’ll offer more robust security features, including stronger parental controls and better guest network capabilities. 

Once you have your new router, open your web browser, go to your router’s IP address, login to the admin dashboard using the default credentials, and change them immediately. Don’t know your default credentials? Google the brand name and model number of your router, along with the words “default credentials” to find them. The fact that these credentials are so easy to find should tell you all you need to know about why you should change them. Replace your router or gateway every three or four years.

2) Change Your Network SSID and Password

You’ll want to change your network name from the default, too, because hackers can detect your network from nearby and may be able to use info in the default network name to uncover your default password. Choose a network name that doesn’t contain personal information, like your family name, house number, street, or pet’s name — nothing that could lead hackers to where you live or give them info that could help them guess your security questions to access important accounts.

3) Install Firewalls, Antivirus Software and/or Special Security Equipment

Changing passwords won’t be enough to keep your network secure — you need the additional security of firewalls, antivirus software, and home network security devices. Antivirus software can be used to protect specific devices from malware, viruses, and ransomware that you might encounter while reading emails or surfing the web. Firewalls can also offer specific devices some level of protection against suspicious files and malware.

The best solution, however, is a home network security device that keeps your network secure by connecting to your router and monitoring all traffic into and out of your network. It can stop instructions from hackers, web threats, and malware. You can see what devices are connected to your network and get alerts when new devices connect. Home network security stations also offer robust parental controls, device security monitoring, and more.

4) Segregate Your IoT Devices

Smart devices are one of the biggest threats to home network security today, as many of these devices have only the computing power they need to connect to the internet and communicate with each other, but not enough to support any kind of meaningful malware or intrusion protection. It’s fairly easy for hackers to access these devices, and once they do, they’re able to access anything else on the same network. 

To protect your personal information, it’s a good idea to keep tablets, phones, and laptops on one network, and more vulnerable smart devices on another. If it’s not able to run its own antivirus software, it should go on a segregated network. That way, if hackers do access one of your smart devices, they can do limited damage — they’ll have to work a bit harder to access your personal information. Of course, that doesn’t mean they can’t use your smart devices to help orchestrate a botnet attack.

5) Keep Guests on a Guest Network

Just as you shouldn’t let your smart thermostat share a network with your laptop, you shouldn’t let guests in your home use your main network, either. You don’t know where their devices have been, or whether they’re opening your network to attack by connecting to it with a compromised device. That’s especially true when you have a lot of kids in and out of the house. Use your router’s robust guest network capabilities to offer your guests a network of their own. This will help protect you not only from those who may unwittingly give hackers access to your network, but also from your kid’s clever friend who wants to hack your smart fridge and drown your family in milk. You never know what guests might decide to do on your network.

Keeping your home network safe should be a priority, but it’s not always easy. That’s why more households are turning to home network stations to monitor what happens on their network. It’s well worth knowing you’re safe from hackers.