A business or an organization running exclusively on wired networks is a very rare scene in the current IT world. Almost all current businesses and companies, both small and large, are turning to wireless for productivity as well as mobility. Although these wireless networks give us freedom from wires, they are not secure by default. In the case of wireless networks, the data is transmitted over the air, and anyone in the network with a right set of tools and knowledge can steal or capture the data.
Whether you have your own WiFi network or use someone else’s, it is your primary responsibility to take proper security measures to protect your company’s confidential data. Although securing wireless networks can be done with minimal effort and costs, many small businesses lack basic security awareness, paving the way for cybercrime.
If the WiFi network of your company or business isn't as secure as it should be, follow these simple steps to strengthen and lock down your wireless network’s security.
Always change the default credentials
This is the very first step you need to do with your network peripherals. By default, devices such as WiFi routers, switches, ports, and access points are not secure out-of-the-box. They come with a set of default credentials for the users or administration panel to log in and configure the network for the very first time. Although most people set up their own wireless network passwords immediately, some forget to change router's default administrative passwords and SSID or think they'll get around to it later.
If you haven't changed your default SSID (public name displaying your router’s information such as brand/model) and router’s passwords, do it now. There are hundreds of online websites that give all the default passwords based on the router’s model. If hackers know what router you use and find that you haven't changed its default credentials, they can effortlessly break into your network. Moreover, even if the hackers don't have your router information, brute forcing with all the available default credentials will give them easy access to your sensitive business data.
Secure your Ethernet ports
No matter how strong your WiFi encryption is, your network is still prone to attacks if you don't secure your network peripherals physically. Securing your network physically is as equally essential and important as securing your wireless network. A hacker or an intruder within your organization can easily access secured information by plugging into any of the network ports. To avoid this, make sure that all your network peripherals are in a safe place such as a locked closet. For additional security of network ports, you can also define the IP address scope for ports.
Firewall WiFi networks from rest of the network
When someone is connected to your network using WiFi, they can get access to your entire network. If your servers and other confidential data are also linked to your WiFi, then an intruder connected to your WiFi can easily hack all your confidential files and data. To avoid this, make sure that all your WiFi networks are separated and firewalled from rest of your network assets.
If you own a business or a small company, it is very important to have a guest WiFi enabled to support visitors or any outsiders. In this case, make sure that your guest WiFi is also isolated from your other networks. Firewalls are also essential in safeguarding your entire network from cyberattacks. You should always ensure that proper firewalls are running on all your computers and other network devices.
Use strong encryption techniques
Open WiFi networks are by default prone to attacks and are very insecure. Therefore, it is your primary responsibility to make your WiFi network encrypted. Using secure encryption standards such as WPA2 will secure your network and can prevent snoopers from sniffing your data.
To add an additional layer of security, you can also combine it with EAP-TLS authentication, which is an extended authentication protocol on the transport layer’s security. EAP-TLS authentication is preferable in business environments as it implements digital certificates over passwords to validate users.
Finally, disabling the outdated WEP and WPS is equally important to safeguard your WiFi networks. WPS is a security mechanism that comes by default on most network peripherals. Although WPS enables you to connect to your wireless network easily with a short PIN or a click of a button, it is highly insecure. WPS uses an 8-digit PIN to authenticate its users, and this 8-digit PIN is internally split in half, making it comparatively easy for intruders to brute-force.
Keep your hardware and router firmware updated
The world of IT is probably one of the fastest evolving fields. By the time an IT product starts settling in the market, an advanced version is launched, outdating the existing version. It is the same with security mechanisms such as encryption techniques and tools. Securing a network and other essentials of an organization or business needs good maintenance. You need to keep your hardware and network firmware updated to be on the safer side. It is very important to regularly monitor all the network peripherals such as routers, ports, access points, and other network components to safeguard your confidential data.
If you want to increase the security of your business and its confidential data, try using a VPN (virtual private network). You could buy and configure a standalone VPN server for yourself or sign up for a hosted service to set up an additional layer of security. This way, all your computers and other devices will be connected to your central server using a VPN, hiding and safeguarding your network.
Apart from all the aforementioned methods, you could always use various other techniques to secure the sensitive date of your business and its online accounts, such as keeping your WiFi signals contained and watching out for an unauthorized hotspot within your network.
It probably took you only a few minutes to read these six tips, and it won’t take much more time to implement them on your network. Whether you're an individual or you own a small business, these simple steps can save your confidential information from being exploited.