Guide to home network security

Woman setting network security features on internet device

The internet has made our lives significantly more convenient. We can bank from our smartphones, attend business meetings from home and even make purchases without ever leaving the couch. The Internet of Things (IoT) that has emerged with new devices connected to the internet creates even greater convenience. For example, people can now control their thermostats remotely.

However, with so much of our lives online, we've become increasingly vulnerable to hackers. That's why it's important to make sure your home network is secure. However, securing your home network doesn't require you to be a cybersecurity specialist. There are steps you can take now to better protect your sensitive information and avoid the problems that can arise from hackers stealing your personal information.

We'll walk you through what you need to know about protecting your home internet access and some steps you can take to strengthen your defenses across all your connected devices, from personal computers to smart TVs.

What is home network security?

Home network security includes the protocols and security that you establish to protect your home internet connection and all the different devices connected to it. Home network security can protect everything from the baby monitor in your infant's room to your home office computer and your tablet that you use for games.

This security helps prevent hackers from breaching your home Wi-Fi network and gaining access to sensitive information — such as bank login details — that you send over the internet through this connection.

Why do you need home network security?

As a home internet user, you might make the mistake of thinking your home network won't be worth it for a criminal to hack into and that you don't really have security risks to worry about. While it's true that most internet users don't operate large corporations out of their homes, that doesn't mean your home network is undesirable to cybercriminals. In truth, hackers will launch cyberattacks at networks they believe they can breach. Stealing your credit card information or banking information can still give them access to significant money.

You might also assume that your home network will arrive at your home securely and that protection comes automatically. This is rarely the case. The best internet service providers will offer you a strong, reliable connection to the internet, but it's still up to you to follow cybersecurity best practices to keep your home network safe.

Fortunately, you can further protect your network through Frontier® Secure. Frontier Identity Protection can protect your personal information by giving you access to regular monitoring through the major credit bureaus and Social Security number monitoring — so you'll get a notification if someone has stolen your information and is trying to use it. Meanwhile, Frontier Multi-Device Security can protect your supported devices from malware and viruses.

Signs your home network security may have been compromised

Depending on how sneaky the hacker wants to be, it can be challenging to recognize that your home network has been hacked unless you know what to look for. However, a breach in your home network will come with a few important symptoms, including:

  • You notice unfamiliar software downloading on your computer or other devices on your network.
  • Your router login doesn't seem to work.
  • You see a sudden increase in the fake antivirus messages you receive.
  • You get ransomware messages on your devices.
  • IP addresses that you don't recognize suddenly seem to appear on your network.
  • You hear from your ISP. If your ISP notices strange activities, they might suspect a hack and reach out to see if there is another explanation.

Essentially, the best way for you to detect a breach or hack is to carefully observe your devices and network. The faster you detect a breach, the more you can minimize the damage. You can minimize how much sensitive information and data the hacker can access before removing them from your home network.

How to improve your home network security

To help you better protect your home network, here are a few important best practices.

Use a network firewall & keep it up to date

A firewall is an excellent first level of protection for your network. A firewall forms a "wall" around your network and monitors the traffic that tries to access your network. You can then set the firewall to either allow or block different traffic sources based on the security protocols that you want in place.

One of the easiest ways to set up a firewall is if your Wi-Fi router has one built into the router firmware. Often, routers will come with a firewall, but it won't be pre-set to "on." You can check this by logging into your administrative console and looking for your security router settings. Make sure the firewall has been enabled. You can then select the settings you want to configure.

Install software-based firewalls

A software-based firewall works a little differently than the firewall that may come with your router. With a software-based firewall, you'll need to download an application with the necessary firewall protection that also has compatibility with your device.

For this type of firewall, you should select security software that works for your needs and install it on your devices. Pay particularly close attention to any devices that you want to use for sensitive information. For example, if your home office computer is where you do your banking, it's a good idea to make sure this computer has a software-based firewall.

Use strong passwords

Your Wi-Fi password allows you access to your home network. If hackers manage to obtain — or even guess — that password, they'll be able to access your network and steal your information.

It can be tempting to make your Wi-Fi password (and other passwords, for that matter) something you can remember, such as using the word "password." In fact, nearly a quarter of Americans report using "password," "123456" or "Qwerty" as a password. Unfortunately, these types of passwords are also exceptionally easy for criminals to guess.

That's why it's important to choose a strong password, whether for your home network or general online activity. Here are a few tips to help you:

  • Don't reuse passwords between different accounts. A default password that opens several accounts makes the hacker's job easy if they manage to collect that special password.
  • Use letters, numbers, capitalization and symbols in your password.
  • Make sure your passwords are at least 12 characters long.
  • You should also update your passwords regularly. Generally, aim to update your passwords about every two to three months. If you have any reason to believe you may have had a breach, update them immediately.

Of course, keeping track of long and complicated passwords can be a significant challenge. A password manager can be a great solution for tracking passwords and helping you come up with stronger, unique passwords. Frontier's Password Manager allows you to easily access all your passwords, credit card information and usernames with one master password. It also provides password strength reports so you can update weak passwords.

Encrypt your router with WPA2 (or WPA3)

WPA2 (or WPA3) stands for Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (or 3). This is a form of Wi-Fi encryption that helps protect the devices within your network. It works with an authentication server to verify that users have permission to use the network.

The first version of this securing was known as WPA, with the second version released a few years later. The WPA3 version is the latest version available and is currently the most secure. To enable this type of encryption, you'll need to log into your router and access the settings for the connection. You can then look at the security settings and verify that the WPA version available to you has been turned on.

Use antivirus software & keep it up to date

Antivirus software works by finding and stopping many different types of computer viruses from entering your network system and spreading. Keeping this installed on all your devices can help you find and eliminate these threats. If you accidentally land on a malicious website, for example, antivirus software can help protect your operating system from a widespread problem.

However, installing antivirus software once isn't always enough. Companies regularly look for ways to improve their antivirus software, such as closing potential holes that hackers might have found or updating the software to include new types of viruses. When updates on antivirus software come out, make sure you download them, so you maximize your protection, as well.

Remove unnecessary software & apps

With every app or software you download onto your devices, the more chances a hacker has to gain access. They enjoy finding loopholes and vulnerabilities in the security of different apps and software, especially when they aren't regularly updated.

When you have unnecessary software and apps, you increase the chance that hackers will gain access to your devices. Make sure you review the apps and software you've downloaded and regularly take stock of what you don't use. Depending on the device, it should be relatively easy to uninstall those you don't use.

Use a VPN

A virtual private network can offer a valuable form of security for many internet users. With a VPN, your internet signal is encrypted and bounced through another server to give you additional security as you use the internet from your home devices. These networks can provide you with privacy even when you use public networks, allowing you to more confidently use the internet at places like your local coffee shop without worrying as much about other people monitoring your internet usage.

The extra privacy and security these networks provide can help you keep your information and data secure whenever you or another family member is online. Those who regularly use their devices for confidential information will want to make sure they have a VPN established and installed on their devices.

Be aware of email threats

Hackers have, unfortunately, become increasingly sophisticated with their attempts to phish for sensitive information. They can send out emails that have been well-researched and accurately reflect who you are and the institutions where you have accounts. They then use this information to write emails that try to persuade you to complete certain actions, such as logging into your account from a link they provide or sending along sensitive login information.

It's important to carefully monitor your email and not fall for these phishing tricks. Some best practices include not logging into accounts from links provided in emails, calling and verifying with institutions that they need sensitive information before handing it over and otherwise monitoring details like the "send" box of the email.

Disable router remote administration

If your home router allows you remote access for your administrative web interface to modify your router settings, you also have a hole in your cybersecurity. Anyone who manages to get access to your login information could potentially change the settings on your router and your internet connection. This, in turn, can leave you vulnerable to breaches that could steal sensitive data.

Look at the settings you have for your router from the router manufacturer. If you see that you have this remote access, you'll want to disable the remote administration option.

Get fast, secure internet from Frontier

With these best practices, you should be able to keep your home network relatively secure. It also helps to have an ISP you can trust. If you want a reliable, fast internet connection for your home, explore the options available from Frontier. We offer both high-speed internet and fiber-optic internet so you can find the plan that best fits your needs. Availability of fiber-optic internet varies by location, so you'll want to check to see which Frontier internet plans are available in your neighborhood.

As you work to keep your home network secure, you can also take advantage of Frontier Secure, which offers multiple security services so you can use the internet with confidence.

See what Frontier offers in your area by checking availability.