As the definition of a home Wi-Fi network is slowly changing from “a necessary thing to keep your PC online” to “central nervous system of a living space,” it’s becoming more and more important to understand the basics of how they work.
The security of your home’s devices is starting to become less about individual antivirus software and more about keeping your entire network free from threats. But worry not, as familiarizing yourself with the following set of terms will take you a long way towards becoming a veritable WiFi wizard, both now and in the future.
Your router is the beating heart of your home network and is probably the part of your home network that you’re most familiar with, for better or for worse. The router serves as a central point that every computer, phone and IoT device uses to connect to the internet. Since it’s at crossroads of all of your web traffic, the security of your router becomes increasingly important with each new connected device in your home.
2. Network Switch
A network switch is a (typically ugly and grey) box that connects wired devices to a network. Since most devices connect to the internet wirelessly, dedicated switches are rare to find in today’s homes. This doesn’t mean they don’t exist, though — almost all wireless routers have a network switch integrated into them, usually visible as four Ethernet ports on the back of your router.
3. IoT Security
New and exciting connected devices are constantly being introduced to the market and making their way into our homes. The downside of this eagerness to innovate is that the security of these new products is often lackluster. A hacked smart dishwasher or gaming console can be bad in itself, but an unsecured device can also serve as a weak link, putting the rest of your devices and the data contained within them in danger. Only the best security routers like F-Secure SENSE have special technology built into them to guard your otherwise vulnerable IoT devices.
4. Weak Link
As Hyppönen’s law says, “Whenever an appliance is described as being ‘smart’, it’s vulnerable”. The more smart devices you have, the more possible security holes there are. A weak link is a device with a security flaw that helps criminals get into your network by exploiting that vulnerability. Think about it this way: It doesn’t matter what kind of locks or reinforcements you have on the doors of your house if you leave the bedroom window open. Do some research on the security of the devices in your home network, and remember to vote with your wallet and leave unsecured gadgets on store shelves.
5. Automatic Updates
Most people are familiar with the term “automatic updates” when it comes to apps or their operating system. The reason that automatic updates are important for security has to do with the cat-and-mouse game that developers play with the bad guys: criminals discover a vulnerability in a software or hardware system, and its developers (hopefully) act quickly to issue an update to fix it. It is vital that these security updates are installed quickly, and a difficult-to-update router will often go unpatched. Let’s be honest: when is the last time that you manually updated your router’s firmware?
A staple in all types of networks, Ethernet cables are the standard wired network used almost everywhere today. These are the cables that go between your router and your internet connection. Many computers connect to the router via an Ethernet cable.
WPA2 stands for Wi-Fi Protected Access 2, and it’s a technology used to prevent people from snooping on the traffic of a wireless network. It is an improved version of the original WPA, which in turn was preceded by a technology called WEP. When choosing a password for your wireless network, you may still be able to choose between these three technologies, so it’s important to know that WPA2 is a more secure encryption. It’s also good to point out that using encryption like WPA2 in your WiFi doesn’t prevent those without access from intercepting your traffic, but the traffic will be scrambled with a strong encryption and therefore will be impossible to read.
In the spirit of becoming a connected home security pro, be sure to read up on some of the biggest lies about connected home security and the Internet of Things.