Hacking your house: Tips to keep your home safe from online predators

cyberattackSEATTLE — Technology opens up a world of information. But with big convenience comes a big risk.

According to software-maker Rapid 7, nearly 40 million and 50 million devices, including home computers, phones and tablets, were vulnerable to attack from cyber predators. Many people’s networks are vulnerable to cyber attack.  Below, online safety expert Linda Criddle offers advice on how to keep your home network safe:

Five tips from Jason Hong at Wombatsecurity.com for keeping your home network safe:

1. Turn on the network firewall on individual computers
Firewalls are a piece of software that block certain kinds of network connections from other computers. Firewall software comes with most versions of newer operating systems, and are usually turned on by default. For example, if you are using Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8, then the network firewall is turned on by default. The firewall for Mac OS X is usually turned off by default, so you should turn it on to improve protection.

2. Change both passwords for your WiFi router
All WiFi routers have two different passwords. The first is an administrator password, and it lets you login and configure the router. A lot of older routers have well-known default usernames and passwords for configuring the router, for example “admin” and “password”. This means that if you don’t change the default password, other people might be able to break into your home network.

The second is a WiFi encryption password, and it lets you (and your family members and friends) use your WiFi router to access the Internet. Sometimes, on older routers, there isn’t a WiFi encryption password, meaning that anyone can use your WiFi to access the Internet. If this is the case, you should turn encryption on and create a password that can be shared with people you trust.

3. Don’t download pirated content
The main reason to avoid pirated content is that there is a lot of fake software masquerading as the latest hit song or popular TV show. It’s not uncommon for hackers to include malware in these kinds of downloads, to trick people into infecting their own computers. The safest thing to do here is to avoid pirated content.

4. Don’t install software that you weren’t expecting to install
A lot of bad guys will try to trick you into installing malware onto your computer. Example tricks include fake video codec updates (codecs are software needed to view certain videos), fake bank software that pretends to protect your bank account, and fake anti-virus software that pretend to protect your computer. It can be very hard to tell the difference between fake software and legitimate software. The safest thing to do is not install the software, and ask someone more knowledgeable for help.

5. Teach your kids about malware and other risks online
You should also teach your kids about the potential dangers of being online. Just like how we teach kids to look both ways before crossing the street, we also need to teach them not to click on unexpected software installations, not to fall for obviously fake emails or status updates, and how to differentiate between fishy software and legitimate software.

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