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It's Time to Check Your Home WiFi Security

How secure is your router?

Published by Claire Broadley

The security of your home WiFi router doesn’t just depend on the password. It could also be affected by the type of security set up.

While most routers now use WPA2, some older routers are still using either WEP or WPA.

It’s easy to get these confused, but there is a huge difference in security between them. Have you checked your router lately?

WEP, WPA - What’s the Difference?

WEP stands for Wired Equivalent Privacy, and it has mostly been phased out. But if you acquired your router many years ago, you might find that WEP is still the default security setting.

WEP is a bad idea because it’s very easy to hack when you know how. Technically, it’s encrypted, but it has security holes that are now very well known.

WPA is, as you might guess, the predecessor to WPA2. Again, technically it’s secure enough for a home WiFi network. But there’s a vulnerability in some accompanying software that makes its security easy to bypass.

So it’s better than WEP, but not ideal by any means.

WPA2 All the Way

If you’re sent a router from your provider now, it should use WPA2.

It isn’t perfect, but hacking it takes much longer. On a home network, there probably won’t be a hacker hanging around for half a day trying to gain access. They’d probably attack a public WiFi or WEP network instead.

Additionally, WPA2 forces you to set a long password. With the other methods, you can set a short one, which will be more basic and easier to attack. So that’s another good reason to switch; longer passwords are almost always a better defence.

Controlling Home Router Security

Learning your way around a router interface can be challenging. But it’s worth double-checking that yours is correctly set up. Check for open ports and ensure that your router is not in the DMZ -- which means all of its ports are open. That would be a gift to mischievous hackers.

It’s also important to note that WPA2 is still vulnerable if you have a weak password, so don’t just plug your router in and forget about it. Last year, Virgin Media encouraged all of its users to change their default router password. If you didn’t do that, log in to your router interface now and complete the steps.

Use all the usual password hygiene recommendations, like avoiding dictionary words and simple patterns.

It’s also a good idea to disable WPS, the one-touch connection feature on some routers, unless you absolutely need it. Likewise, if you have a guest network, consider whether you really want anyone and everyone logging on to your home connection.

If you don’t have any other options, it’s worth checking if your router has a firmware update available. Not only could this add better security controls, but it could also guard against new vulnerabilities that have been discovered since you first bought it.