Wi-Fi

Importance of WIFI Security – How YOU Can Prevent Online Attacks

Oct 01, 2021  by Burhanuddin Ezzy


WIFI and the Internet are an essential part of our lives. Since people have become so dependent on it, from getting entertainment to getting their work done, it has become very easy for hackers to take advantage of our networks. Hackers attempt to exploit any flaws in security layers to access users’ private data and files.

WIFI security was established to create a strong barrier from hackers and make the possibility of wrongful access to devices and information more difficult. However, you may not be using all available resources to protect your network, which results in weak network security. This is why we wanted to share some important tips for you to understand what WIFI security is, how it works, and what you can do to improve it.

 

What is WIFI SECURITY

WIFI security prevents unauthorized users from accessing your WIFI and stealing any data. It creates a barrier by encrypting your private data, like network requests or files you send, as they are broadcast over airwaves. Simply put, it acts as a barrier to protect your wireless network from threats that can cause harm to you.

 

How Hackers Take Advantage

Your WiFi doesn’t stop within the walls of your home – it goes beyond your place, which might allow bad actors to be able to access the network when they are in range. If someone does manage to connect to your WiFi, they can do a number of things with the connected devices:

• View and manipulate files on connected devices

• The attacker can spread malware across devices on the network

• Steal private login or payment details

To understand the depth of the problem, let’s look at three types of attacks among the most common today.

Cracking And Decrypting Passwords

This method uses trial-and-error to try and guess your network password to get in. Although this time and resource-consuming method is considered “old-school,” with impressive improvements in technology, hackers can use software to speed up brute-forcing your password significantly.

Man-in-the-Middle Attacks (MITM Attacks)

A man-in-the-middle attack occurs when a hacker intercepts the private communications between two connected clients to monitor or modify their traffic. Hackers might use MITM to spy on the user, steal login credentials or personal information or intentionally modify the traffic data.

A hacker can perform Man-in-the-Middle attacks by infiltrating a private network through a rogue WIFI access point or creating an Evil Twin – a type of attack where the hacker tricks the unknowing user into connecting to a malicious network that mirrors a legitimate WiFi access point. The Evil Twin is entirely controlled by the attacker, who can now eavesdrop, collect, or manipulate all data the user sends.

Though it may seem easy to avoid by ensuring you’re connecting to the right and encrypted network, your devices might connect to networks with the strongest signal or to any SSID name they remember on their own. This means that you are not the only one that can be tricked into connecting to the wrong network – even your devices might be vulnerable to this type of attack.

Packet Sniffers

Packet sniffers are computer programs that monitor traffic on a wireless network. They intercept data packages and provide a user with their contents with no intention of harm. However, in the wrong hands, they can be problematic. Hackers can steal this data, spy on network activity, and gather information to use in attacking the network.

 

Wireless Security | WIFI Security

To fend off against online attacks, international organizations like WiFi Alliance put forward networking security protocols that every connected device needs to support. To learn more about the main security protocols, check out our recent blog on WPA3, where we break down the history and the workings of each of these technologies in detail.

Here is a quick refresher on the four security protocols:

Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP)

It is the first security protocol and is still used on older devices today. It uses data encryption based on a combination of user and system-generated keys that protect the traffic. However, since it was the first network security protocol, it has become easy to crack. It is now considered the weakest amongst the safety protocols, so we recommend that users avoid using this encryption method if possible.

WiFi Protected Access (WPA)

WPA was developed to be the new and improved version of WEP. WPA had an improved technology called Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) – a dynamic 128-bit key that was significantly harder to crack than WEP.

WiFi Protected Access 2 (WPA 2)

WPA2, as the name suggests, was an upgrade to WPA that replaces TKIP with a new protocol – Counter Mode Cipher Block Chaining Message Authentication Code Protocol, also known as CCMP. Any connected device manufactured after 2006 that uses WIFI connectivity should support the WPA2 standard, as required by the WIFI Alliance.

WiFi Protected Access 3 (WPA 3)

WPA3 is the latest security protocol in the WPA family. Announced in 2018, WPA3 set significant changes to WIFI security from the last iteration, which was released 14 years prior. The most notable additions to the new security protocol are more robust protection for simple passwords, individualized encryption for personal and open networks, and even more secure encryption for enterprise networks.

With these safety protocols in place, cyber-attacks don’t seem much of a threat. However, with improvements in the security barriers, attackers are also improving their game, and it is our responsibility to take every precaution against them.

What You Can Do to Secure Your WIFI Network

Encrypt Your Network

Network encryption protocols scramble the information sent through your network, making it difficult for the unintended recipient to decipher it. To do this, you should set your access point to either WPA3 (if supported) or WPA2 Personal. However, if your Access Point only supports WPA or WEP protocols, we suggest considering a new router with support for later, more robust WPA3 or WPA2 encryption protocols.

Change Your Router’s Preset Passwords

Routers tend to come with preset passwords out of the box, and these are often very easy to hack. Therefore, it is crucial to create a more complex password to strengthen the security barrier.

There are two passwords you should keep unique and protected:

1. The WiFi network password – the one that connects your devices to the network.

2. The router admin password – the one that lets you manage your device settings. This password should be difficult to guess or crack because if someone gets access to the admin portal of your AP, they can change anything in the settings, including the WIFI password. For more information on how to change these passwords, contact the manufacturer directly.

Updating Your Router Firmware

Visit the manufacturer’s website to see if a new version of the firmware is available for download. Typically, firmware updates might contain important performance and security improvements for the device. Register your router with the manufacturer and sign up to get updates. If you got your router from an Internet Service Provider (ISP), sign up with your ISP to get automatic updates (if available).

Turn off WPS and Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) Features.

In short, WPS is a feature that lets users connect to the network with a push of a button on the router to connect a supported device to the Internet quickly. On the other hand, Universal Plug-and-Play is a feature that lets connected devices on the same network find each other more easily. Although these settings might sound convenient, these features weaken network security and make it easier for hackers to join the wireless network.

Set Up a Guest Network.

Many routers let you set up a guest network with a different name and password. It’s a good security measure for two reasons:

1. Having a separate login limits the number of users with access to your primary WiFi network and, therefore the connected devices on that network

2. In case your guest unknowingly has malware on their phone or tablet, it won’t get onto your primary network, and therefore won’t infect your connected devices.

Log Out as an Administrator

Once you’ve set up your router or are done changing router settings, make sure to log out of the administrator account. When you are constantly logged into the admin account, even if you don’t actively use it, hackers can use that logged-in session by tricking you into clicking a link, therefore, allowing them to bypass admin login credentials. This is the same reason why banks tell you to sign out or automatically sign you out after a certain period of inactivity.

Hide Your WIFI Network Name (SSID Broadcast)

Hiding your network name from being broadcast publicly makes it more difficult for users, good or bad, to discover the existence of your network. To connect to your network, you’ll have to manually enter the network name (SSID) to connect to it, as it will not be displayed in the list of available networks. Hiding SSID broadcast is typically done through the router’s settings.

WIFI presents a myriad of possibilities for users everywhere – from family FaceTime to Work-From-Home, but it also has its risks. By taking these steps, you will make it quite difficult for online attacks to highjack your WIFI security barrier and get access to your private data. After all, the possibility of a hack shouldn’t stop us from taking full advantage of what WIFI brings to the table – but we must ensure that we are taking all the steps to minimize the threat and protect our networks as best we can. From our side, we will keep designing products that help you easily achieve this goal.

Stay safe!

 

Want to learn more about WiFi Security? Read more about our latest partnership with BlackDice to provide best-in-class WiFi Security for home networks.

For more information about Mercku’s Connectivity Suite, our hardware and how you can partner with Mercku, please reach out to the team at connect@mercku.com

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