Basic Home Network Security: What You Need to Know
Jamie Wolbeck, VP of Operations, SUCCESS Computer Consulting
Imagine you sit down to dinner at a restaurant, and your server comes by to tell you about the specials. “Oh, the steak—tell me more about that!” you say. Your server shrugs. “It’s fine,” they reply.
Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, does it? And it shouldn’t.
Unfortunately, when most people think about their home network’s security, they’ll probably describe it with the same lackluster adjective: “fine.”
Assistive technologies like voice-generated searches, hover recognition, and refreshable braille displays have made notable strides in recent years, and significantly contributed to promoting independence for those living with physical or cognitive disabilities—all the more reason, then, to make sure your home network is adequately protected. Keeping assistive technology secure is a positive step towards reinforcing independence and privacy.
So, where do you start?
The most basic items related to security are often overlooked, but there are some simple things you can do to bump your home security from “just fine” to phenomenal. Let’s start with some of the most common ways you can protect your technology at home and terms you should be aware of.
- Don’t use the default password: Most devices—think modems, firewalls, printers, scanners, etc.—come preloaded with a default username and password. Change them. Defaults may be easily guessed to allow access.
- Use anti-virus and anti-malware software: All of your devices with an operating system can be impacted by a viral infection, or malware, which at best can reduce the performance of the system, or at worse allow it to be actively used against you. While anti-virus software only covers known infections, it still offers protection.
- Use wireless internet encryption: Your wireless network needs to be protected from outside intruders, and one of the best ways to do this is to use encryption. Encryption is, quite simply, a means of scrambling or “coding” electronic messages while they’re in transit, so unintended recipients can’t glean them for sensitive information.When it comes to your wireless network, there are several levels of security: WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy), WPA (WiFi Protected Access), and WPA2, which is currently considered the standard level of protection.The best way to apply this protection to your home network is to research your router on the manufacturer’s site and make sure you’ve downloaded and applied the manufacturer’s specific firmware, with all settings enabled for the highest possible level of encryption.
- Use a firewall, not just an ISP-supplied modem: Internet Service Providers supply a modem for most home connections, but common vendors like Comcast or CenturyLink don’t supply a device that allows for external protection. ISP vendors or outside devices should be purchased to provide firewall capabilities. Firewalls can take the form of hardware or software, but the important thing is that a firewall filters the data flowing to and from your home network, and determines rules for what type of traffic is allowed to reach your computer from an outside network, such as the Internet.
- Update your software and firmware: Patch your devices. Windows software patches, Apple software patches, and hardware patches (firmware) are a requirement to fix vulnerabilities. Like your favorite well-worn shirt, computing software or devices need repair from time to time, and these are offered in the form of a set of updates, improvements, and fixes. Often these bugs are worked out in later versions or new releases of the software, but the patches provide protection from known exploits in the meantime.
- Have an encrypted, regular backup: If your data is accidentally deleted or hit with an infection, you need a line of defense that allows you to bring back your data. This information should be stored and encrypted in a safe location, like an external hard drive, a device that can store all of your data in a location physically separate from your computer, for example. Using your systems frequently? Make it a practice to run your backups nightly.
These are first steps, and while they won’t make your network completely invulnerable, it is a great start to keeping your data, and the assistive technology devices you utilize, secure. It’s important to stay up-to-date by reading news articles about vulnerabilities, staying current on attacks, talking to your friends in tech and keeping apprised of email or phishing attacks, so you know what to watch out for.
Professional Security Options
If you are a provider looking for solutions to secure your client and organizational data, or are looking for increased security for your home, hiring a professional computer consulting company may be an option for you. Below are a few good questions to ask when looking to hire a professional service provider.
- Will I have a dedicated account manager and on-site technician?
- What level of service can I expect?
- What is expected of me, as a client?
- What do you offer in terms of security services? How are you making sure my devices are updated and patched?
- In what ways will your managed services encourage a partnership with our organization instead of a simple business transaction?
SUCCESS provides managed network support, cloud services, project services, security solutions, CIO services, HIPAA consulting and Microsoft Office 365 migrations. We work with business leaders to ensure technology delivers the best value and is utilized in the most effective way for the success of their business today and in the future.
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Visit the ARRM Technology Resource Center to learn about more success stories and case studies showing how technology is changing the lives of those living with disabilities or learn more about how to start the conversation.