Securing Home Network Devices

June 14, 2023 by
Mark Nash

Many people worry about someone hacking their computer, but not many worry about their wireless printer getting breached. Printers are a tool that most individuals use sporadically, such as when they want to print tax forms. Printers tend to be out of sight, but they're not out of the mind of hackers. Unsecured network devices, like printers, are a classic way for criminals to gain access to a home network. To illustrate this point, Cybernews purposely hacked nearly 28,000 unsecured printers globally. The success rate was 56%, and once they gained access to the printers, in order to help promote healthy cybersecurity practices, they made the printers print out a guide on printer security. Printers are not the only type of device a hacker can use to breach your network either; anything that can connect to the internet is a vulnerability that needs to be protected. We have some security tips below to help you better secure your network, which keeps data on all devices more secure.

1. Change the default login credentials

When you buy a new network device, manufacturers will likely have included default information to connect and set up your device, including default login information. A vital part of the setup should be changing that default information. Hackers have master lists of all these defaults that they plug into an automated script and keep trying them all until they get a hit. Change these, and make sure you create a strong password.

2. Keep device firmware updated

Keeping firmware updated is vital to keeping your network devices secure. Hardware needs updating just like computers, software, and apps do. Those updates often contain important security patches. Firmware updates aren't usually as visible as software updates. Software and OS updates usually give you a popup notification. But updates to drivers and firmware aren't so visible. Some of the places you can check for firmware updates are:

  • The PC manufacturer's utility app on a connected device
  • The device's information panel
  • The device manufacturer's app installed on a PC

3. Use a network firewall

A network firewall is important to ensure the monitoring of traffic. Firewalls can block suspicious activity to keep hackers out of your network. You should configure the firewall to watch incoming and outgoing traffic on the network device.

4. Put your device on a guest network

Most of today's home routers allow you to set up a guest network. This is a separate Wi-Fi that runs from the same router you use for your primary network. It's harder for hackers to get from one network to another, so keeping less secure devices separated from computers and phones improves security.

5. Disable unused ports or services

IoT devices often have many ways to connect networks and other devices. You may not need all the ports or services that come with your device. These ports are a risk factor that hackers can take advantage of to find a way in, so it's best to disable any ports and sharing features that you don't need to reduce the risk of a breach.

6. Unplug devices when not in use

Most home network devices, such as printers, aren't used as much as work network devices. If you're not using a device consistently, it is a good idea to unplug it when not in use. The only surefire way to ensure a device can't be hacked or to sever a hacker's access to a device is to deactivate the device, as a network device with no power is nothing more than a physical object.

7. Teach your family cybersecurity best practices

Most families connect several devices to their home Wi-Fi. In 2022, the average number of connected devices per U.S. household was 22. Families need to know and adopt good cyber habits in order to keep everyone's data secure. Some standard best practices to follow for good cyber hygiene are:

  • Always use strong passwords. (at least 10-12 characters & include a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols)
  • Keep software & firmware on devices updated
  • Use multi-factor authentication wherever possible
  • Enable device firewalls & other protections
  • All devices that are able to should have a good antivirus installed
  • Never login to an account from a link you receive via email or text
  • Learn how to identify phishing & get a second opinion before clicking
  • Get a security checkup from a pro at least every year or two