How to Secure Your Wi-Fi Router and Protect Your Home Network

Your router is perhaps the most important gadget in your home. It checks all incoming and outgoing traffic, acting as a sentry to make sure that nothing dangerous comes in and nothing sensitive goes out. It controls access to your home Wi-Fi network and through that all of your phones, tablets, laptops, and more. If someone else gains access to that network—whether a remote hacker or your next-door neighbor—it can be quick work to compromise those devices.

With that in mind, it's essential to keep your router secure. The good news is these steps aren't too difficult or time-consuming, and they'll significantly reduce your risk.

These tips will require you to access your router's settings, which you can typically do through your web browser by typing in an IP address, or if you're lucky, through an app on your phone. If you're not sure how to find these settings, check the documentation that came with the router, or run a quick web search using your router's make and model.

Change the Passwords

You should be using WPA2 security to guard access to your router, which essentially requires every new device to submit a password to connect. This is enabled by default on just about every router, but if it's not active on your device, switch it on through your router settings.

It's a good idea to change the Wi-Fi password on a regular basis. Yes, it means you'll need to reconnect all your devices again, but it also kicks off any unwelcome visitors who might be lurking. Your router settings panel should give you a list of connected devices, though it might be tricky to interpret.

We'd also recommend changing the password required to access the router settings themselves, as many people just leave the defaults in place—and that means someone who knows the defaults or who can guess them could reconfigure your router. As with any password, make it very hard to guess but impossible to forget.

These password settings should be fairly prominently displayed inside the router settings panel, and if you router is a more recent model, you might well get warnings if the new passwords you pick are too easy to guess or brute force. Before long, WPA2 will give way to WPA3 , which offers more set it and forget it security, but until then, pay close attention to your Wi-Fi password hygiene.

Keep the Firmware Up to Date

Your router runs low-level software called firmware which essentially controls everything the router does. It sets the security standards for your network, defines the rules about which devices can connect, and so on.

Some more modern routers update themselves in the background , but whatever model you have, it's always worth making sure the firmware is up to date. This means you've got the latest bug fixes and security patches, and are protected against whatever exploits have just been discovered .

The process varies from router to router, but as with the password settings, the option to update your router's firmware shouldn't be too difficult to find within the router control panel. If you get stuck, check the router documentation or the official support site on the web.

Photograph: Sky Hub via David Nield