How To Protect Your Home Wi-Fi

By Tracey Dowdy

If your Wi-Fi at home is slow, there are a number of possible reasons, including where your router is located, wireless interference and “noise” from other electronics, overlap with the neighbor’s Wi-Fi signal, or even what other users in your house are doing online.

I live in an older home with very thick walls, and I’m convinced it was a bunker at some point in its history. Because there’s so much concrete and metal in the structure, even though my house isn’t overly large, I need a Wi-Fi extender to have internet access upstairs.

Another possible reason is that it’s possible that someone is using your Wi-Fi without your permission.

It could be a neighbor or bad code running on a device, but either way, you’ll want to put a stop to it.

Here’s how.

The first step is to check to see what’s connected to your internet. Most newer routers like Linksys Smart Wi-Fi, Netgear Genie, and the TP Link Tether have a companion app that expands their functionality and enables you to see exactly what’s going on. Open the app and look for “Connected Devices.” Even if you have an older router, you can still see a list of connected devices through the router’s web portal. Check your manual for access instructions. If you see a device you know isn’t yours, e.g., a MacBook when your family has only PC and Android devices, disable or disconnect it.

If your Wi-Fi isn’t password protected, you’ve left the door wide open to the world. Set up a secure password immediately. You should always implement the current and highest possible level of security protocols – that means using WPA2.

If the router is older, it may be time to replace it. Newer routers come with better security protocols, faster speeds, parental controls, and can eliminate “dead zones” in your home.

If you do upgrade, here are five basic settings to reconfigure:

  • Change the network name and password, or better yet, use a passphrase.
  • Choose a security mode – experts recommend WPA2 (often listed as WPA2-PSK/AES) for the most protection.
  • Check network mode and bands – you’ll want to broadcast on both frequencies: 5GHz and 2.4GHz. The 2.4GHz band is more congested because it’s the frequency common household electronics use, but it allows older devices to connect to the internet. The 5GHz band is faster and less crowded but has a shorter range. Using both ensures there are no gaps in service.
  • Enable parental controls.
  • Consider setting up a “Guest Network” to prevent others from accessing shared computers and files on your network.

There’s a little work on the front end, but once set and secured, the peace of mind – and faster speeds – make it all worth it.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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