7 Tips to Help Remote Workers Secure Their Home Wi-Fi

Do you remember that old song called “Dem Bones” that goes: “ankle bone is connected to the shin bone, shin bone is connected to the knee bone, knee bone is connected to the thigh bone…” and so on? (It’s in your head now, isn’t it?)

Well, legend has it that hackers sing a similar song to their kids that goes: “remote worker’s wi-fi connected to the corporate network, corporate network connected to the privileged accounts, privileged accounts connected to the confidential data.”

True, it’s not as catchy, but hackers have never been about style points. They’ve been about doing what works over and over again until it stops working. And unfortunately, they’re having a ridiculously easy time these days hacking remote worker wi-fi setups, and establishing a foothold from which they launch into corporate networks — often with the goal of deploying malware to harvest confidential data (e.g. customer credit card numbers). 

The solution to this problem? Ensure that remote workers fortify their home wi-fi setup, because it is definitely not in full security mode out-of-the-box. The problem with this solution? Maybe remote workers — especially non-technical types — don’t know what to do, and are afraid if they tinker with their router then they won’t just be banished from the land of Zoom conferences and Slack chats with colleagues, but they won’t be able to surf bizarre Reddit subs at 3:00am or watch Minecraft videos on YouTube. What kind of existence is that?

Fortunately, going from Wi-Fi security zero to hero doesn’t require a PhD in Geekology. Here are seven things that remote workers can and should do right now (if they haven’t wisely done so already) to protect themselves and their organization:

  1. Toggle WPA2-Personal (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2) instead of WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy).
  • Change the default pre-shared key (PSK) to something that is: 100% unique; at least 15 characters in length; uses a mix of numbers, letters and symbols; does not use memorable key paths (e.g. “asdfg”); does not use common substitutions (e.g. passw0rd); does not use any dictionary words; and does not use any personally identifying information (e.g. pet’s name).
  • Change the Wi-Fi router’s default administrative credentials. To change it, remote workers simply head to an online platform that is usually located at http://192.168.1.1 or http://192.168.0.1, enter the details password (typically “admin”), and change the password accordingly. The new password should check all the boxes listed in #2.
  • Disable Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS). This was designed to make life easier by allowing people to connect devices to their home network (e.g. laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc.) simply by pressing a button on their router. No password verification is needed. However, while this is convenient, the protocol between the router and devices could be vulnerable to brute-force hacking techniques.
  • Keep the router’s firmware updated. For instructions on how to do this for a variety of router types, check out this handy step-by-step guide (including screenshots).
  • Change the default network name. This is used by the router’s encryption algorithm (along with the password) to secure communications. However, widely available password cracking dictionaries (a.k.a. rainbow tables) include common network names. The best advice is to pick something short and boring — e.g. “QT24L” and not “Can’t Hack This.”
  • Turn off network name broadcasting. Yes, it’s convenient to see the network name when connecting devices. But it’s also convenient for hackers, and for neighbors who may not necessarily want to steal data, but have no qualms about stealing bandwidth to torrent files, stream movies, and so on.

The Bottom Line

Will implementing all seven of these recommendations make a home Wi-Fi network impenetrable? No. As long as there is going to be Wi-Fi, there is going to be risk. However, doing all of the above will certainly make it tougher for hackers, and like home burglars, most of them target low hanging fruit. If a Wi-Fi connection puts up a fight, they’ll usually just move on to the next victim until they find one who hasn’t followed the advice in this article.

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