Usually, we only remember the router when installing internet at home. Or when we are going to clean the furniture it is on. Or worse: when we have connection problems and he is elected the main suspect.
But the router has an important function that deserves more attention: it is the first (and often the only) security barrier between your devices and the internet. Therefore, it can be the target of invasions, with very unwanted consequences.
“Depending on the local settings, the attacker that arrives on your network can have access to files, folders and printers that are being shared by other machines, and also connect to services exposed by them”, says Gabriel Pato, ethical hacker, specialist in information security and founder of Pato Academy, which promotes cybersecurity courses.
Installing the router in an inappropriate place in the house can also cause headaches, such as problems with signal quality in more remote locations. If it is in a drawer or in a place with poor ventilation, it can even overheat and malfunction.
Below, we’ve listed three expert tips that will ensure your router works well and securely.
1 – Install in the right place
As routers are far from being decoration items (especially those with several antennas that look like a technological hedgehog), the tendency is that we try to “hide” them. But if you overdo it, you will have problems.
“The ideal is to choose a central location in the region that will be served. That is, it must be at the same distance from all ends of the area where you want to have a signal”, advises Ricardo Tombi, professor in the electrical engineering department at EIF
Sometimes this means placing the device in a more central room in the house rather than in the living room.
However, it is necessary to take into account that the wi-fi signal can suffer degradation according to obstacles such as walls, doors, slabs and even mirrors. This means that installing the router in rooms away from the places you use the internet the most (such as the office or living room) can compromise the signal.
Finally, hiding the device in drawers or closets is also a bad idea. In addition to making it difficult to broadcast the signal, it is worth remembering that the equipment generates heat when it is turned on. The stuffy environment can shorten its lifespan.
2 – Pay attention to the password
“Devices that have known vulnerabilities or that use weak passwords can be more easily accessed by the attacker,” Pato warns.
“From there, he can control security cameras, for example, jeopardizing the privacy of the owner of the network. Or use the internet provided by this network as a source of anonymity to commit crimes. The access would be linked to the subscriber of that connection , not him,” he continues.
Tombi adds: “the person who had their network invaded can become the target of data hijacking, a practice known as ransomware, in which their equipment or data are only released after payment of the ransom.”
Your first security measure should be setting strong passwords, both for connecting to the network and for accessing the router’s control panel.
For connecting to the network, a tip is to choose a phrase that makes sense to the most frequent users, mixing lowercase, uppercase letters, symbols and numbers.
In the case of the control panel password, many devices come with a default code, which some people simply keep. Bad habit! One can get in just by testing the most obvious option, easily found on the internet. With validated access, the attacker can change various settings and even discover the password for the Wi-Fi connection.
Immediately change the default code to a strong password with uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.
In either case, remember to change your network and router passwords regularly.
3 – Adjust the settings
Speaking of the control panel, it may seem like a seven-headed beast to laymen, but it’s actually not quite like that.
It is usually accessed through the browser of notebooks or smartphones connected to the Wi-Fi network, with instructions on labels that are usually on the underside of the device. If you have difficulties, a quick search for the router model in search tools will yield simple tutorials for this type of interaction.
In the control panel, you can, for example, see the list of devices connected to your network. This, in itself, can give clues if someone is using the connection without authorization. Another indication of excess users on the network is the drop in speed. Tilt even has a test to measure the speed of the connection:
Another important setting is the security protocol. “The ideal is always to use the latest protocol supported by the router, as each new version includes security improvements. At the moment, the ideal is to use the latest WPA3, and in its absence, opt for WPA2”, guides Pato.
Finally, a feature that is best to disable is WPS, a solution that makes it easy to connect new devices via Wi-Fi, but which can be used for intrusion.