How To Build a Secure Network for Your Home in the Age of IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) has transformed nearly every element of our daily lives. Whether used at home or work, this technology dominates speakers, thermostats, and everything in between. The convenience that IoT supplies cannot be denied, but this way of life comes with a few notable downsides. Perhaps the most concerning? The potential for cybercrime.

Unfortunately, many of today’s most prevalent IoT devices aren’t as secure as they should be. While newer products are beginning to implement advanced built-in security features, there’s no reason to risk a patchwork cybersecurity system. With a properly designed network, you can build full security from the ground up and continue to make the most of your favorite IoT devices without fear of suffering future attacks.

Top Steps for Building a Secure Home Network

There is no one ideal home network – what suffices in one situation may be less desirable in another setting. As you determine the internet plan, hardware, and accessories needed for your network, think carefully about which IoT devices you intend to use and how you will utilize them. Ultimately, the best solution will allow your collection of smart products to run efficiently without compromising your security.

Upgrade Your Internet Service

How does your internet currently function? Could you benefit from an upgrade? Often, connections that cut it for one or two computers or smartphones struggle to handle the demands imparted by dozens of IoT devices. Quality service is critical, as excessive downtime could impact how key devices function while also leaving you vulnerable to breaches. These problems can be minimized by selecting a provider known for delivering exceptional network reliability.

While most people emphasize bandwidth when hunting for internet providers and plans, several other factors warrant consideration. Low network latency, for example, is crucial for homes dependent on the Internet of Things. Under a high-latency system, devices struggle to send and receive signals with sufficient speed.

Assess your options carefully, looking not only at standard residential plans but also business-class internet or fiber services. Consider taking advantage of a data plan that accommodates tethering, which will essentially allow your smartphone to act as a modem.

Invest in High-Quality Hardware

Even the most reliable business-class internet with the lowest latency will fail to provide an efficient or secure network if your hardware falls short. Ideally, your system will include both wired and wireless solutions to ensure full coverage in all scenarios. Hence, the need for a quality broadband router, which will support both Ethernet and Wi-Fi connections.

Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n) routers remain available, but you’ll be better served by a Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) solution, which delivers greater efficiency and reliability. Beyond this, router selection will largely depend on the size of your home and its layout. In general, larger houses require long-range routers. These should be centrally located to deliver the best possible connection in every room.

Don’t forget to examine your router’s security certification. Specifically, you need to understand the difference between WEP, WPA, and WPA2. Years ago, WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) and WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) certifications were once sufficient. Today, however, all systems should, at a minimum, abide by WPA’s successor, WPA2, which dramatically strengthens encryption.

Keep in mind that the recent rollout of WPA3 may soon render WPA2 obsolete. Top improvements offered via WPA3 include secure handshakes for establishing connections and new methods for safely adding devices to existing networks.

As you select a preferred router, consider whether your home can benefit most from a conventional single router, a two-router solution, or a mesh network. Multi-node mesh systems are increasingly popular in homes that suffer dead zones. Under this approach, multiple nodes can be placed throughout your home to deliver broad coverage. Data can be routed as needed, thereby reducing the burden on the router.

No matter your router setup, you’ll need a broadband modem, which enables your home for internet service. Several products integrate routers and modems into systems known as gateways. Many consumers, however, prefer to select these elements separately.

Most modern routers are compatible with a vast range of modems, so it’s not always necessary to invest in both at once. Gateways make it more difficult to upgrade specific elements as needed, so when in doubt, opt for separate but compatible modems and routers.

Enable Security Features

Don’t assume that your network is secure simply because you’ve invested in the latest and greatest router. This product will do you little good if its most important security features are disabled. Unfortunately, many systems require users to enable security essentials on their own – and many people neglect to do so until it’s too late.

The process of enabling security includes designating an administrator and assigning a password. Many manufacturers use default usernames and passwords, so make a point of changing these as soon as possible. Like any password, your selection for your router should include a random string of letters, numbers, and other characters.

Develop a Backup Solution

While the right hardware can dramatically reduce the potential for your system going down, it’s always wise to have a plan B. With an automatic backup system, you can rest assured knowing that copies of your most vital data are stored in secure locations.

Many smart home enthusiasts rely on cloud-based backup services to automate the process and deliver quick and efficient recovery in the worst-case scenario. Some, however, prefer Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices. Modern NAS solutions offer impressive storage space while also allowing home-based consumers to take advantage of the private cloud. Additionally, several NAS systems now provide remote access to increase user convenience.

Ramp Up Security with a Personal Firewall

Both your router and computer include built-in firewalls, but these won’t necessarily provide the degree of protection required for your home’s most vulnerable IoT devices. Consider adding an extra layer of security via a high-end firewall, which will limit the potential for hackers entering your network through undetected gaps in protection. Specifically, a next-generation firewall (NGFW) can add valuable security features such as intrusion prevention and in-line deep packet inspection.

Choose IoT Devices Carefully

Some smart devices are far more secure than others. In general, recent models are more likely to include the robust features needed to minimize risk. As you examine options within a particular product category, take a close look at privacy policies, third-party provisions, and built-in security features.

Set Up a Guest Network

Do you regularly invite guests into your home? No matter how trustworthy they may seem, these beloved individuals can place your network at risk. Thankfully, it’s easy to set up a separate network.

Most routers provide features dedicated to guest networking. These can be configured to allow visitors to access the internet without using shared folders or NAS devices. Select a strong password and keep it somewhere you can easily locate to ensure that guests enjoy prompt internet access as soon as they arrive.

Consider Disabling Remote Access

Remote access may be valuable for smart security systems and thermostats, but it’s not absolutely necessary for all IoT devices. While convenient, remote features can make your network more vulnerable. So, determine which devices can be successfully operated without enabling remote access. You may be surprised to discover that remote functionality isn’t as important as you initially assumed, especially for devices that have little to do with your home’s security or climate.

Enhance Your Home Wireless Network Security with Help from NerdsToGo

Smart home device setup and security maintenance may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re not prepared to handle the essentials highlighted above, don’t hesitate to seek assistance from the experts at NerdsToGo.

Our certified Nerds are passionate about the Internet of Things – and they’re eager to provide the guidance you need as you create and maintain the most secure network possible. We can also assist you with setting up new computers and printers and help you improve your home Wi-Fi speed. Feel free to contact us to discover how you can develop and maintain a secure network with our help.