The Download: Feature Articles
Tips for Securing Your Home Network
By Victoria Lubas | Last reviewed: Dec. 4, 2023
You may think your home network is secure, but a freshly-unboxed device such as a new router usually provides only a semblance of cybersecurity protection, leaving your data—and if you are learning or working from home, NYU's data—vulnerable. However, you can make sure your home network, and everything that passes over it, is more secure by following a few basic steps to help protect yourself from prying digital eyes.
Reinforce Your Router
For an airtight home network, start by securing the source: your router. Whether you switch to a new, security-focused router or continue renting from your internet provider, your first step should be changing the router name and password. Your router's default name is a clue about your type of router¹, streamlining a hackers' password-cracking process. The new name should be unrelated to the original and should not contain any personal or identifying information.
Those same guidelines apply to changing your router's password. A strong password is at least eight characters long with a mixture of capital letters, lowercase letters, and special characters. A truly secure password does not include any definable words or personal information, so reserve your nickname, favorite movie, or birthdate for social media handles.
Home Sweet Smart Home
When connecting smart devices to your newly-protected router, easy does not equal secure. So while it's quick to connect your devices with the push of a button, features like this tend to be protected only by flimsy PIN numbers or factory-default passwords that are susceptible to brute force attacks². Instead, connect devices using your newly-reset password and consistently update your devices and router to the latest security patches.
This update-minded behavior extends to your Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Your smart TV, coffee maker, Amazon Alexa, and other IoT devices may be all hooked up and functioning like Tony Stark's J.A.R.V.I.S., but an intelligent system does not mean a secure one. Deny device permissions, reset passwords, update security patches and more to turn your smart home into a virtual Fort Knox.
Prudent Public Wi-Fi Practices
Ensuring a secure home network extends beyond your four walls, because the devices you bring home could compromise and infect your home base. When out and connecting your phone or laptop to public Wi-Fi, use NYU VPN powered by Cisco Secure Client—to ensure a safe connection that protects your device from hackers. Your devices should also be equipped with antivirus software. NYU provides free copies of antivirus and malware protection software to eligible NYU community members.
Even if you use a VPN, you cannot be sure that your guests' devices are malware-free. Protect the sensitive data on your computer, tablet, or phone by connecting visitors to a separate guest network. Separate networks also ensure that guests can't accidentally control your lights, door bell, and coffee maker all through their phones. To protect the sensitive data on your computer from potentially breached IoT, you can also set up a separate network for IoT devices so the malware on your Google Home doesn't reach your PC.