A home wireless network, or Wi-Fi, is the quickest and easiest way to connect your tablet, computer, TV, and other gadgets to the Internet's sea of information and services.
Easy, yes. Fun, too.
But is it safe? That depends.
To find out how to ensure the safety of your home Wi-Fi, we spoke to tech experts Derek Meister, a Geek Squad Agent, and Lance Spitzner, Director of the Sans Institute's Securing the Human Program and manager of its free monthly online-security newsletter, securingthehuman.org/ouch.
What is Wi-Fi?
To know if your home wireless network is secure, you should first understand how it works.
Your network is typically made up of these elements: Your modem and router The modem translates the data signal coming in from your Internet provider. The Wi-Fi router then broadcasts, or routes, that signal wirelessly throughout your home. Often, modems and routers come combined in a single box. Your Wi-Fi-enabled devices Devices such as computers, tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles, and more that tap into the wireless signal (Wi-Fi) broadcast by your router.
The best ways you can ensure home wireless network security:
1) Choose a secure name for your network.
When setting up your home network you'll be asked to create a publicly visible network name (SSID) and a network password (encryption key).
"Since your network name is publicly visible, consider a network name that does not provide information about you, like 'The Jones Family Network,'" Agent Meister says. "You don't want to give people any type of information that could potentially help them guess your passwords or usernames."
If your current network name gives away too much, consider logging into your router and changing it. (Search the Internet for "How to change your wireless network name" to learn how.)
2) Choose a secure password for your network.
When it comes to your Wi-Fi network password, the more complex, the better. Avoid easy-to-guess passwords, such as your address or telephone number.
Instead, Spitzner says, pick something long, such as a sentence with personal meaning, spaces and all. Think: "My favorite band is The Rolling Stones." If your device does not allow such length or spaces, stick with a mix of numbers and uppercase and lowercase letters plus symbols, if allowed. The longer, the better.
Worried your password gives too much away? Change it. Your router or router-modem manufacturer's website should provide instructions on how to do this.
3) Choose a secure password for your router.
Your router or router-modem has its own unique password, which allows you to log on to it and change its configurations. This, too, should be something very strong and very private. "If it isn't, bad guys can remotely log on and control the websites you connect to," Spitzner says, which could then grant them access to your personal information, including credit cards and banking info.
As with your network password, this one should be either a unique, long phrase or a mix of numbers, symbols and uppercase and lowercase letters. If it isn't, consider changing it. Your router or router-modem manufacturer's website should have instructions on how to do this.
4) Keep your connected devices up to date.
Know that even with a secure wireless connection, viruses and spyware can worm their way onto your devices, Agent Meister says. Always stay on top of all of your devices' antivirus protection and software and firmware updates, which improve security and functionality.