NSA Tips to Secure Home Network

July 12, 2023 by
Mark Nash

In today's world, technology is ubiquitous, and connectivity is considered a must; as a direct result securing your home network has become more critical than ever. As cyberattacks continue to grow more sophisticated, a secure home network is essential for protecting your personal data from hackers. Despite that, individuals often have significantly fewer safeguards in place for their home network compared to their work. Yet many are working from home, which puts both personal and company data at risk. About 46% of businesses saw at least one cybersecurity incident within two months of moving to remote work. The good news is that there's no lack of materials on home network security. Many of the steps are straightforward and can help you avoid a data breach at home. The National Security Agency (NSA) has provided some best practices for securing your home network. We have highlighted some of the most helpful tips below.

1. Change Default Passwords and Usernames

The first step to secure your home network is to change the default passwords and usernames of your router and connected devices. Default passwords and usernames are often well-known to hackers, who can easily use them to breach your network and access your data. Changing these default credentials is an essential step in securing your home network.

2. Enable Encryption

Encryption is the process of encoding information so that only authorized parties can read it. Enabling encryption on your home network is also crucial to protect your data, as it keeps hackers from intercepting and reading it. Most modern routers support encryption protocols such as WPA2 or WPA3. Ensure that you use the latest encryption standard, which would be WPA3, used in Wi-Fi 6 routers.

3. Update Firmware

Firmware is the core software that runs on your router and other connected devices. Manufacturers will release firmware updates to fix security vulnerabilities and add new features, so updating the firmware on your router is important to securing your home network. You can usually check for firmware updates from the router's web interface or find updates on the manufacturer's website. This step is frequently skipped as many people only see the router app during setup and rarely go back unless there is a need. You should set a calendar item to check your router app at least once per month for updates.

4. Enable a Firewall

A firewall is a network security system that monitors and controls incoming and outgoing network traffic. Enabling a firewall on your router can help protect your network by defending against malicious traffic and unauthorized access. Most modern routers have a built-in firewall which you can typically enable through the router's web interface.

5. Disable Unused Services

Most routers come with a range of services that manufacturers enable by default, such as file sharing, remote management, and media streaming. Consider disabling any unused services to reduce the risk of a hacker exploiting them to gain access to home networks. Only enable services that you need for your network.

6. Secure Wi-Fi Network

Your Wi-Fi network is one of the most critical aspects of your home network, as it is the most accessible and, therefore, the most easily hackable. Securing your Wi-Fi network is vital, and it includes:

  • Changing the default SSID (network name)
  • Disabling SSID broadcast
  • Enabling MAC address filtering
  • Disabling WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup)

These steps will help prevent unauthorized access to your Wi-Fi network.

7. Use Strong Passwords

Passwords are a critical component of any security system. Using weak or easily guessable passwords will make your network vulnerable. Ensure that you use strong passwords for your router and other connected devices. A strong password should be at least 12 characters long and include a combination of upper and lowercase letters and at least one number and symbol.

8. Create a Guest Network

A guest network is a separate Wi-Fi network that can be run through the same router for guests to use to access the internet without accessing your primary network. This can also be helpful for connecting additional devices to your network that could introduce potential security threats, such as wireless printers or IoT devices.

9. Limit Physical Access

One of the easiest ways for hackers to breach a device is for them to gain physical access to said device. Ensure that you place your router in a secure location, such as a locked cabinet or a room with limited access. Also, ensure that you disable physical access to the router's web interface, especially if you have guests or children who may tamper with the settings.