Many home routers are getting a workout due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. With students being sent home and employees being asked to work remotely, there are more active devices than ever sharing that home Wi-Fi signal.
This can cause a unique type of security situation because hackers are well aware of how much work data is now being transmitted through home networks. All they have to do is hack into one device and they can often use that connection to compromise another device on the same Wi-Fi connection.
Devices on the same network are often visible to each other, which allows data sharing. But that visibility is also easily exploited to facilitate a data breach.
The average Australian household has 17.1 internet connected devices.
An employee that’s been asked to work from home remotely, is transferring from a work network, which most likely has business-grade Wi-Fi security, to a less secure home network.
That home network can have what are considered “high risk” devices (easier for hackers to compromise). These can be everything from a teenager’s iPad to a smart home thermostat.
How do you keep your work PC safe when it’s relying on the same residential router to get online as higher risk devices?
Router Segmentation and How it Works
You can improve the security of your home connection when telecommuting to work by doing something called router segmentation. This simply entails making use of a “guest network” to separate your sensitive device traffic from riskier device traffic
Most routers have the ability to run a completely different wireless network simultaneously as their main Wi-Fi stream. This is feature is called a guest network, and it can be used to segment your router and separate “high risk” from “highly sensitive” devices.
By keeping your work devices on a separate network as other connected devices in your home, you greatly reduce the risk of a data breach. If a high-risk device is hacked, the hacker won’t be able to get to your work PC because it’s not on the same network.
Here’s how to do it.
Step 1: Identify Sensitive and High-Risk Devices
Identify the devices that need to be put on separate networks. You want to safeguard computers, laptops or mobile devices being used to transmit sensitive data (those you use for email, online banking, and work) from easier to hack (aka higher risk) devices, like children’s devices or smart home gadgets.
This step might look something like this:
- Highly Sensitive Devices:
- Work Desktop
- Work Laptop
- Smartphone used for work messages
- Higher Risk Devices:
- Son’s gaming computer
- Daughter’s tablet and smartphone
- Smart security camera
- Wearable tech, like Fitbits
Step 2: Set up a Guest Wi-Fi
You’ll typically need to connect to your Wi-Fi router using an ethernet cable, then you simply visit the IP address for the router from a browser window. Look in your router instruction guide or the back of the router for that IP address.
Once you’ve logged into router settings, look for the guest network setup. You want to ensure that you set up a strong password for the network. This will be the network you’re going to designate for your higher risk devices.
(Alternately, you can use this new network for the sensitive devices, the main thing is to separate the device groups as you identified them in step 1.)
Step 3: Change Your Main Network Password
Before you log out of your router settings, you want to change the password on your main Wi-Fi network. This will ensure that a high-risk device doesn’t automatically reconnect to that main network after rebooting.
Now you have two home Wi-Fi networks:
- Your main network with the password changed for sensitive devices
- The newly created guest network for higher risk devices
Step 4: Connect Devices to the Appropriate Network
Go through your list from step 1 and reconnect each of your devices to the appropriate network. This will separate your work computer and other devices that contain confidential or sensitive information from those devices that are easier for hackers to compromise.
It’s important to tell your family what each of your two home networks are for and you may want to guard the password for the network that your work computer is connected to so someone doesn’t accidentally connect a high-risk device to it down the road.
Then, whenever a new computer, wearable, smart gadget or other tech that needs to connect to the internet comes into your home, decide which of the two networks it should use based upon its risk and whether or not it contains sensitive information.
How Secure is Your Home Router?
Routers are the most popular IoT device for hackers to attack. Get a home network security checkup from Connected Platforms to ensure your home and work data are properly safeguarded.