What wireless router configuration would stop outsiders from using your home network router location network name encryption IP address?

You may have heard of the dangers of connecting to free, open-access WiFi networks. But did you know that your home network can also be hazardous to your personal data? If you have not taken the proper security precautions, your home WiFi is likely to be just as vulnerable as the open wireless network at your corner coffee shop. Without the proper defenses, your network could be accessible to anyone with even a modest set of cyber snooping skills. 

Our infosec experts have identified the three most important security safeguards for standard home WiFi networks. “These protections,” they said, “should solve 99.99% of issues for 99.99% of users.”1 

Take a read through the following tips and commit to taking these steps to make your network more secure. Though the idea of updating default passwords and changing WiFi settings might sound too technical for you to handle, it’s easier than you might imagine. If you’ve ever programmed a DVR (or—going back in time—a VCR), you can do this as well.

1 Like most networks, WiFi systems can include different types of equipment and different configurations. For the purposes of this article, we assumed a relatively common residential network setup featuring a single wireless router with a built-in access point.

The “admin” password on your router is totally different from the password that you use to connect to your WiFi network. Where your WiFi password will allow you to connect to the internet using your router, your router password gives you access to the actual configuration settings of the WiFi network itself. (See section 3 for information about setting/changing your WiFi password.)

The problem with leaving a default password in place is that everyone from amateur teenage hackers to sophisticated cybercriminals can find that password somewhere online and use it to get into your network. Changing default passwords helps to reduce cybersecurity risks.

Here’s how to change your default password:

  1. Find the label on your router that lists the default IP address, administrator user name, and administrator password.
  2. Open a new web browser tab or window in your browser of choice.
  3. Enter the default IP address — it will look something like 123.456.7.8 — in the web address bar.
  4. Enter the default user name and password on the login screen.
  5. Navigate to the administration area and change the admin password. Longer is better, and special characters are a plus. A passphrase that means something to you but would be difficult for others to guess is a great option (for example, I<3SpicyChickenWings).

Note: If the IP address is not listed on the side of your router, or you’re not comfortable making any changes to your router, you may want to contact your ISP (i.e. Comcast) technical support to assist you. 

The next thing to do while you’re in this screen is to disable remote administration. When remote administration is enabled, it’s possible to connect to your router from outside your home; leaving that on when not specifically necessary makes your network vulnerable to attack. 

To turn off the feature, look for a box or button that is labeled with something like “Enable Remote Administration” or “Disable Remote Administration.” Check or uncheck the feature as appropriate to ensure that remote administration is not on.

Note: If you can’t find the spot to change your admin password within the interface, search “change <Router Brand> <Model Number> password” in your favorite web browser and you should quickly find the directions.

While you’re in the administration area, take the opportunity to upgrade your router’s firmware. As is the case with other electronic devices, router manufacturers often discover bugs and other issues that need to be addressed after products have already been shipped and installed. Updating the firmware on your router is akin to updating the operating system on your smartphone or tablet, and this step can help eliminate known cybersecurity vulnerabilities and improve performance. 

To complete the update, look for and select “Firmware Update,” “Router Update,” or a similar option in the administrator window. If you see the option to enable automatic firmware updates (look for a toggle feature such as “Router Auto Update” or similar), turn that on to ensure you automatically receive security and feature updates in the future. 

As noted in the first tip, if you can’t find what you’re looking for, an online search can help you identify where to go within the interface to complete the update.

There are three key settings to check (and, if necessary, change) within your WiFi network configuration: your SSID (which is the name of your wireless network), your encryption method, and your WiFi password. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Look for a tab named “Wireless Setup” or similar. (Again, a quick online search can help you identify the exact location for your specific router if you're unsure.)
  2. First, check your level of wireless encryption. WPA3 is the newest wireless encryption standard, but it is currently in its early days. Most routers and devices (like smartphones and laptops) do not yet support WPA3, so it’s unlikely to be an available option in your interface (unless you’ve specifically installed a WPA3-compatible router). Until WPA3 becomes more commonplace, choose WPA2 encryption — a must, as earlier WiFi encryption protocols are far more vulnerable. If there are multiple WPA2 options, choose either WPA2-PSK, WPA2-PSK (AES), or WPA2-Personal; all three are essentially the same and offer the best option outside of WPA3 for at-home use.
  3. Set or change your wireless network password. (If your service provider gave you a password, choose a new one.) As with your new router admin password, opt for a longer passphrase that has personal meaning and at least some degree of complexity (special characters, numbers, etc.). DO NOT reuse your admin password.
  4. Change the default SSID to the name of your choice (something like “FBI Surveillance 1” is likely to leave your neighbors amused—or concerned). If you keep the default SSID, you will likely broadcast the brand and type of router you are using, and these are pieces of information that a cyber snoop can use against you.

On a related note, if you are particularly worried about outsiders “piggybacking” on your internet access—that is, using your WiFi network rather than paying for their own connectivity—disable SSID broadcasting. (Unauthorized wireless use tends to be a greater concern in more populated residential areas like apartment complexes and multi-tenant buildings.) 

When SSID broadcasting is turned off, your WiFi network name will not be visible to devices when they scan for available wireless networks in your area. The benefit of disabling broadcasting is that it becomes much more difficult for outsiders to connect to your network because they would have to guess both your SSID and your password in order to gain access. The downside of this is that your SSID will not show up in your scans either, which means you will have to manually enter your network name into your devices when you connect. 

To disable this feature, look for “SSID Broadcast” (or similar) in the wireless setup area. Check (or

uncheck) the box or button as appropriate to disable broadcasting.

Your home networks might have a range of wireless devices on them — from computers and phones to IP cameras, voice assistants, smart TVs, and connected appliances. Taking some basic steps to secure your home Wi-Fi network will help protect your devices from getting hacked — and your information from getting stolen.

Your Wi-Fi network is your home’s wireless internet connection. It usually involves a wireless router that sends a signal through the air. You can use that signal to connect to the internet. But unless your network is password protected, any device within range can pull the signal from the air and use your internet connection.

The upside of Wi-Fi? You can connect to the internet wirelessly. The downside? Others nearby who connect to your unprotected network might be able to see what you do online, including your personal information. And if anyone uses your network to commit a crime or send illegal spam, the activity could be traced back to you.

How Can I Secure My Home Wi-Fi Network?

Encrypt your network. Encrypting scrambles the information sent through your network. That makes it harder for other people to see what you’re doing or get your personal information. You encrypt your network by simply updating your router settings to either WPA3 Personal or WPA2 Personal. WPA3 is the newer — and best — encryption available, but both will work to scramble your information.

Older Router? No WPA3 or WPA2 options on your router? Older routers have WPA and WEP, which are outdated and not secure. If those are the only options listed, try updating your router software. Then check again to see if WPA2 or WPA3 are available. If they’re not, consider getting a new router to keep your information secure.

Change your router’s preset passwords. Some routers come with preset passwords out of the box. But hackers can easily find these passwords, so it’s important to change them to something more complex. There are two passwords on your router that you’ll need to reset.

1. The Wi-Fi network password: this is the one you use to connect your devices to the network. A unique and secure Wi-Fi network password prevents strangers from getting onto your network.

2. The router admin password: this is the one that lets you into the administrative side of the device. There, you can do things like change settings (including the Wi-Fi network password). If a hacker managed to log into the admin side of your router, the hacker could change the settings (including your Wi-Fi password). That would undo any other security steps you may be taking.

To find instructions for changing your router’s admin and network passwords, first, find the name of your router’s manufacturer. Then go online and search for “how to change [your router manufacturer] admin password” and “how to change [your router manufacturer] Wi-Fi network password.” Still having trouble? Contact the manufacturer directly.

Keep your router up to date. Before you set up a new router or make updates to your existing one, visit the manufacturer’s website to see if there’s a newer version of the software available for download. To make sure you hear about the latest version, register your router with the manufacturer, and sign up to get updates. If you got your router from your Internet Service Provider (ISP), like Verizon or Comcast, check with your ISP to see whether it sends out automatic updates.

Turn off “remote management,” WPS, and Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) features. Some routers have features that can be convenient but weaken your network security. For example, remote access to your router’s controls allows you to change settings over the web. WPS lets you push a button on the router to connect a device to the internet instead of entering the network password. Lastly, UPnP lets your devices find each other on the network. These features may make it easier to, say, add devices to your network or let guests use your Wi-Fi — but they can make your network less secure.

Set up a guest network. Many routers let you set up a guest network with a different name and password. It’s a good security move for two reasons:

  1. Having a separate login means fewer people have your primary Wi-Fi network password, and
  2. In case a guest (unknowingly) has malware on their phone or tablet, it won’t get onto your primary network and your devices.

Log out as administrator. Once you’ve set up your router or are done changing settings, don’t forget to log out as administrator. When you’re logged in as administrator, you can change passwords and otherwise manage settings that control the security of your network. If a hacker got into your administrator account, they could easily get into your network and devices.

Protect your devices. Just as hackers can get to your data through unsecured networks, they can also get to your network through unsecured devices. To find tips on locking down your devices, read about keeping your devices secure.