Tips & Tricks #1: Secure Your Wi-fi Router

secure your small business network

Wi-fi routers can be a hassle to install if IT isn’t your thing. And for most small business owners, focusing on what is your thing is how you build your business. Time spent tinkering your wi-fi is not the ticket to success. But it’s important to remember that offering your customers and clients security for their data and proprietary information is definitely key to your success. Nothing ruins a reputation faster than a data breach. (Also, wi-fi free riders slow your network.)

In my experience, there are 4 things small business owners neglect to do to secure their wi-fi routers. Happily, it takes only minutes do these 4 tasks to secure to your network.

4 Fast and Easy Steps to a Secure Wi-fi Router

Complete all of these steps in your router’s administrative interface. Don’t remember how you got there? Most folks will be able to get to their router’s administrative interface by typing into the address field of their browser. If that doesn’t work for you, here’s how you find your router’s IP address.

    1. Change your admin password. Did you realize that the factory pre-set for most wi-fi routers’ admin account (that is, the account you use to set up and maintain your router) is password? To state the obvious, that is not secure, so the first step in securing your network is to secure the admin account with a secure password. [More information about how to create a secure password can be found in Have You Been Pwned?]
    2. Change your SSID. The SSID is the name of the network broadcast to devices in range. It’s highly recommended you change the SSID to something that will not broadcast the model (the usual default factory setting) or the origin of the wi-fi system. So, for example, if your name’s Dave, don’t name it “Dave’s wi-fi.” This is usually a setting in a basic setup screen, and it’s usually quite easy to change (because you are encouraged to change it). For more information, refer to your router’s user manual.
    3. Change your connection’s password from the factory’s setting. Unlike the admin password, the default is usually some unique-looking password. You may have the ability to change the password to either ASCII (letters, numbers, special characters) or hexadecimal. Choose your approach wisely. ASCII is what most people are used to using, and for most networks a robust ASCII password is sufficient. Hexadecimal is next level in security, but it also may pose access challenges for the people you want to be able to access your wi-fi network.
    4. Use the guest setting if you have the option. If you do not have a guest setting and share your password with your guests, or if you have turnover in your employees who have had access to your network, change the connection passwords regularly to limit who has access to your network.

Another key part of router security is to keep it updated. It runs on software, which, like all the software and apps you use, needs to be kept updated to maintain up-to-the-minute security. If your provider doesn’t automatically push updates to your router, you will need to keep it updated yourself. [Here’s how you update your router software: Tips & Tricks #2: Update Your Wi-fi Router]

Keep It Simple

If your router has more than one connection (say, a 2.4 GHz connection and a 5 GHz connection), change the SSID and password for one connection at a time. For example, after you change the SSID and password settings for the first connection (in our example, the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz connection), connect at least one device to that connection. After verifying that you can access the router using that connection with its new SSID and password, go ahead and change the SSID and password settings for the other connection. The last thing you want to do is lock yourself out of your router via wi-fi and have to tinker with a direct connection to get things back up and running.

All of these changes should take you under 30 minutes to complete, and they will make your network infinitely more secure. It’s a cyber jungle out there, and your router is a small part of a larger cybersecurity plan you should have in place for your business. To learn more about preventive steps scaled for small businesses, check out the Freelancer’s Guide to Cybersecurity.

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