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Your Wi-Fi network is a hub for all your personal information. You send emails and access your bank account from your home network, but is any of it safe? If your Wi-Fi password is older than Betty White, you can’t be sure anything you do online is secure from prying eyes and malevolent hackers.
There is only one solution: changing your Wi-Fi password. The process of securing your network is a lot easier than you may imagine, and we’ll teach you exactly how to do it in this guide.
The longer you use a password, the riskier it becomes. A good hacker can crack even the strongest password if given enough time, and you don’t want to give them that time. If you’ve given your password away to enough people or stored it in an insecure location, anyone could have it by now. The only way to keep your password safe is to change it regularly.
Beyond the obvious security concerns, there are other disadvantages to having unauthorized folks accessing your network. If you have neighbors or anyone else taking advantage of your poorly secured Wi-Fi, then they may be slowing down your internet connection. Changing your password may even boost your internet speeds.
The worst thing you can do is stick with your router’s default Wi-Fi password. If you have never changed your Wi-Fi password, all a hacker needs to do to access your network is figure out the make and model of your router.
You should change your default password immediately after you get the router. After that, you should use a completely new password every 30 to 90 days. It helps to keep your password changes on a regular schedule so you don’t forget. Set a calendar reminder for a day when you and everyone else who uses your network can coordinate to change the passwords on the router and all your networked devices.
The more people who have access to your password, the more frequently you should change it. If you ever suspect your network security is at risk, you should change your password immediately.
You don’t need to change your network name often, but you should not leave the default name in place. It’s not a security issue in the same way as a default password, but it can send the wrong message to nefarious actors looking for an easy target.
When hackers see a default network name, they assume — often correctly — the network belongs to someone who doesn’t know how to change their network settings. They’ll target those networks with the hope the password, encryption, or other security settings are also using inferior default values.
Change your network name once, and you’ll decrease your risk of being hacked forever. When you change it, don’t include any personal information in the name — remember that this network name will be visible to the public.
There are a few important things to keep in mind when crafting a secure Wi-Fi password.
Most routers will offer a few options for your wireless security type. This setting controls the level of encryption applied to data traveling across your network. A low level of encryption makes it easy for hackers to eavesdrop on your personal data.
The most common security types are Wireless Equivalent Privacy (WEP), Wireless Protected Access (WPA), newer iterations of WPA (WPA2, WPA3), and mixed modes (e.g., WPA+WPA2). Your router probably also has an option for no security protocol, but you should never use that option.
WEP is an old method that exists only for compatibility. Many new routers have already removed it, and you should ignore it even if it’s available on your router. Instead, use the newest version of WPA that your router allows. If you have older devices that don’t work with WPA2 or WPA3, try a mixed-mode option such as WPA+WPA2 before reverting to WPA as a last resort.
Below is a list of common options, ordered from best to worst. Your router likely will have only two to four of these. Try to find the one highest on the list that works with all your devices. Unless you have a very old computer, you shouldn’t have to go past WPA2. If your router doesn’t have anything better than WEP or WPA, it might be time to get a new router.
Security screen example; the specific layout will vary depending on your router.
Home should be a place of security, and that includes your home Wi-Fi network. Any system is only as secure as its password, and too many of us are still using default, insecure, or outdated passwords. Updating your network with a good password — and changing it frequently — is an excellent way to ensure you can browse the internet safely, securely, and privately.
A better password is the beginning of security, but there are more steps you can take. Now that you’ve updated your Wi-Fi password, this may be a good time to take your newfound security expertise to the next level by using a VPN or taking steps to remain anonymous on the web.
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