Summary: Find out how to keep your wireless network safe and secure.

With a few changes to your settings you can make your home wireless network more secure. Here we'll show you 5 of our most recommended tips. Most of these only take a minute or two to do. Using all, or a combination of them, you'll give your home network the best possible protection.

  1. Use the latest Wireless encryption and strong passwords
  2. Consider changing your wireless network name (SSID)
  3. Switch off your wireless network if you're not using it
  4. Install your router in a safe place
  5. Stay safe while using public Wi-Fi hotspots

To follow this guide you may need to make changes to your wireless settings.

If you're not sure how to do this and you're using a Thomson 585 router, please see our Thomson 585 wireless settings guide.

Otherwise, please see your router's manual for more help.

1. Use the latest Wireless encryption and strong passwords

Wireless encryption

Wireless encryption scrambles the signal of a wireless network, so it can only be read with the correct key (password). Over time, newer encryption standards have been introduced to improve security and combat the threat of hacking. As a rule of thumb, older encryption standards are more susceptible to attack.

Since September 2008, all Plusnet routers are set up with WPA-PSK encryption and a strong password. This should be enough to prevent intruders gaining access to your network. Our routers also support WPA2-PSK. If your computers and devices are compatible with it, we recommend switching your network to this when you can.

If you received your router before September 2008, from another ISP, or you bought it yourself, you should check the settings as you may be using WEP encryption. WEP does offer a modest level of protection, but known weaknesses make it fairly easy for a hacker to bypass.

Your wireless password

Even with the very best encryption, your network security is only as strong as the password it uses. Using a weak password could allow a hacker to gain access to your network within a few minutes. Since September 2008 Plusnet routers use a strong wireless password as standard which is unlikely to need changing. Even so, you should be aware that the password is printed on the bottom of your router and the setup sticker (if included).

Your router password

Changing router settings is as easy as using a web browser to access your router's internal setup page. Anyone who is connected to your network can do this if they know the IP address of your router and the router username and password. The default login details for most routers are basic and publically known, so it's a good idea to change the default password to something stronger.

Plusnet routers are set up with a strong password that shouldn't need changing, but you should be aware that the password is printed on the bottom of your router and the setup sticker (if included). Please see How to change the password on our Thomson routers if you'd like to change your Plusnet router password.

Guidelines for choosing a new password

If you need to change your wireless password for any reason, follow the steps below to make sure your password is strong:

  • Choose something you'll be able to remember!
  • Use a mixture of letters and numbers
  • Avoid using single words that you can find in a dictionary
  • Don't use personal details e.g. names, addresses or dates of birth

See this Microsoft guide to strong password creation for more tips.

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2. Consider changing your wireless network name (SSID)

The Wireless network name (or SSID) is the name you look for when scanning for available networks.

You should consider changing it to put a potential hacker off. This is because they'll see you've made some effort to secure your wireless network.

While it seems obvious to call your network My Home Network, or something similar to identify it as your own, this can make it easy for a hacker to identify where your network is.

Wireless network list.

Guidelines for choosing a new wireless network name

  • Don't use your name, date of birth, home address or any personal information
  • Avoid using a word or phrase that you've used elsewhere (e.g. for a password)
  • Try to avoid tempting names like 'Keep Out' or 'Top Secret'. It'll only make a hacker even more curious!
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3. Switch off your wireless network if you're not using it

If you're not using wireless (e.g. you're going on holiday, or you only connect through an Ethernet cable) you should consider switching wireless off. You can do this by logging into your router and changing the settings.

Don't switch your router off unless you're going to be away for a while. Leaving your router switched on improves the performance and reliability of your broadband (find out why).

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4. Install your router in a safe place

Did you know that your wireless signal is not only available inside your house, but also outside it too? A small amount of 'leakage' is fine, but the further the wireless signal reaches the greater the chance that your wireless network will be seen by others and a greater chance that attempted logins are made. Wireless signals can reach your neighbours' property, or even as far as different streets in the right conditions.

Where you place your router or access point in your home makes a difference to how far your wireless signal reaches. Try to avoid putting it in or close to a window. This will allow your wireless signal to 'leak' outdoors as well as indicating to potential burglars that you probably have a laptop.

Where your router is installed can also affect the signal strength in your own property. See How to improve your wireless signal if you're having problems with this.

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5. Stay safe while using public Wi-Fi hotspots

Public Wi-Fi hotspots (e.g. in a coffee shop, airport, restaurant or public house) are inherently more dangerous in comparison to using your Wireless network at home.

Most public networks are unsecure, meaning anyone can connect to them. Depending on the range of the hotspot you may not even need to sit in the premises of where the network is based! It's fairly easy for a hacker to monitor the traffic of any wireless network they are connected to. An unsecure network makes this even easier.

Guidelines for using public Wi-Fi hotspots

  • Try to avoid logging into websites where you'd need to enter personal or card details.

  • If you have to enter details on a website, make sure the page you're entering them on uses https rather than http (you'll see a padlock in the address bar or at the bottom of your web browser window when https is used).

    You'll see a padlock like this if HTTPS is in use
  • If using email, use a secure webmail service if possible e.g. https://webmail.plus.net

  • Try to avoid sending or collecting email with confidential material contained in them.

  • Make sure your computer isn't set up to share folders with important files (Windows Vista and Windows 7 will ask you about this when connecting to new networks)

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This page last updated 30th March 2012

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