Improve Security & Performance On Your Home Network

Most home WiFi networks have been overwhelmed during the pandemic. We’re demanding more from them. It’s worthwhile to consider some quick-win tips to help improve security and performance so I wrote up a handy guide:

  • Use a strong password using WPA2 (don’t use your or your dog’s name or anyone’s birthday in it)
  • Make sure your WiFi network isn’t named after something identifiable like your last name, address, etc. Best idea is to make it cryptic but fun.
  • If your wireless router/modem supports it, use the guest WiFi network for IoT devices like Nest, Ring, any “smart” devices, and for actual guests when they come over and ask to connect to WiFi.
  • Update all of your hardware’s firmware so it has the latest and greatest software
  • Use fast.com to test your speeds from different places in your home.
  • If it’s slow, you might consider plugging directly into your modem using an Ethernet cable.

WiFi Passwords

Odds are pretty good many of your friends and neighbors have had your password for years so now is a great time to change it and make it stronger while you’re at it.

I recommend choosing something like people-are-often-confusing (but please don’t use that one).

WiFi Network Name

If you’ve named your WiFi network something that makes it easy to identify your house and or family, please change it. Criminals can use this information against you. No sense making things easy for them.

Use the Guest WiFi Network

Most routers can create a guest WiFi network pretty easily. It’s a wise way to quickly improve your security. If yours can create one of these, I recommend you use it and put your IoT devices (Nest, Ring, security cameras, etc) on it along with any guests who visit your house. Otherwise, your so-called “private” WiFi network isn’t so private after all.

Using VLANs

If you’re interested to segregate your home network in a more sustainable and predictable way, Virtual Local Area Networks or VLANs are a better way to create boundaries. They enable better use of your available bandwidth, which means your network(s) will be faster and be more resilient to a broad spectrum of challenges the future may hold, including overall performance and security.

Caveat here is most consumer-grade network devices do not support VLANS. I recommend more sophisticated hardware like UniFi for anyone interested to build a more sustainable network for the long-term. There are a ton of step-by-step guides out there from an active and supportive community of folks to help you so I won”t duplicate their work here. There are some great ones tho like this: https://xdeb.org/post/2020/02/28/unifi-edgerouter-guest-iot-vlan/

If this all sounds great and important to you but way out of your comfort zone, it’s something you can ask for help with by contacting a local networking services provider in your area. With the future of work likely becoming more home-based than ever before, you’ll be grateful you did this sooner rather than later.

Keep Device Software Up-To-Date

We’re all prolly tired of hearing it but it’s good advice. Whatever the device, whatever make or model, keep them up-to-date with the latest software to maintain optimal performance and security!

Network Speed Test

I use fast.com to test speeds from different places in my house. It’s a good choice because it’s powered by Netflix who is arguably the de-facto authority on bandwidth usage and speeds. That site isn’t ad-driven, besides, which is nice. Easiest one of all to use, too.

When In Doubt, Plug In

WiFi was really designed more for mobile devices more than desktops and laptops, which can plug directly into networks using Ethernet. This method is exponentially faster and more secure. If the physical space in your home where you do most of your work is challenging in terms of good WiFi, you can buy an Ethernet cable and plug in for waaay faster and more reliable connectivity. Here’s a quick search for that online –> https://duckduckgo.com/?t=ffab&q=Ethernet+cable&ia=web

I use a wired or plugged-in connection in my office at home because I can rely on it when I’m on video calls or presentation at virual conferences. It’s a sure-fire solution for a permanent workspace so if you’re setting up your home office it’s a great idea.

I hope one of more of these tips are helpful. Stay safe and make the best of the new, corona-normal.