How to Secure Your Small Business WiFi Network

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First things, first. Setting up a business WiFi network for your small business should not be a DIY project. While a home network can be somewhat simple for many to set up, setting up a secure network for your business is entirely different and it comes with significant risks for those who choose to do it themselves. Currently, fourteen million U.S. businesses are at risk of a hacker attack according to CNBC, and everything from payroll to banking information, to usernames and passwords, are on the table. Make sure you’re taking the necessary steps to protect your data by having your WiFi network professionally installed, and keep it secure by following these simple tips.

Make Sure Your Router Is Physically Secure

The first thing to think about is the physical security of your network. Where are your router and servers? Do you have a way of knowing who is in the room with them at any time?

Physical access to your router and other key equipment is just as important to think about as any other safeguard. Digital hacking countermeasures are all well and good, but someone could bypass them with physical access to your business WiFi network.

Make sure you’re not making it easy for hackers to social engineer their way to your data by securing your router and other key pieces of equipment. Consider putting safeguards in place that let you monitor access points 24/7, including video surveillance. It’s vital that you know who has access to your physical systems at any given time.

Double Check Your Network Configuration

This sounds incredibly simple, but you’d be surprised how many business WiFi routers remain on default settings. That means that, with the right information, an attacker can get access to not only your data but also the login information for your network, potentially locking you out. Most routers come with a default username and password, and you can be sure these will be among the first things a hacker tries when attempting to crack your network.

Make sure you’re using password best practices when you set up your business WiFi network. Change your password on a regular basis, as well as any time you have staff changes. When it comes to your data, you need to make sure that you’re taking every precaution you can.

Update Your Firmware and Software

With so many things demanding our attention on a day-to-day basis, it’s easy to put off updating your software. We’ve all clicked the “remind me later” button on a software update reminder because it’s come up in the middle of something else we were doing.

The thing to realize is that these updates are patching key, publicly announced vulnerabilities. Hackers are already whipping up ways to exploit your negligence if they haven’t already. You may already be behind when it comes to patching up these holes.

The same goes double for any firmware updates that need to be installed on your router. Because all of your essential business data goes through it, you need to be sure that your router is secure. Exploits that may have been discovered after you took it out of the box are patched in firmware updates, so make sure you regularly check if anything needs to be updated.

Firewall Protection

Most routers generally have a firewall built in that will protect your internal network from external attacks. This feature isn’t always automatically activated, so check to see if your router has something called SPI (stateful packet inspection) or NAT (network address translation). Enable that feature in your router settings to make sure that you’re protected.

You also need to make sure that you’re protected on the software side of things. You want to be sure that things aren’t getting sent out over the network or the internet without your permission. For that, you need to make sure that you’ve installed firewall software on your operating systems. For that, PC Magazine’s top firewall picks is a good place to start.

Split Access Points

For many businesses, offering free WiFi is a key part of their customer experience. At the same time, having both employees and your customers on the same network is a recipe for disaster. Not only does it open you up to potentially dangerous attacks, but it also risks slowing down your business network—all because someone needs to go on a Netflix binge.

Instead, use a Service Set Identifier (SSID) to create two separate access points for your network. One can be for your team and the other for the public. That way, you isolate your business’ computers from the public to provide an extra layer of protection.

Look for Rogue Access Points

A Rogue Access Point (Rogue AP) is any unofficial way someone has of connecting to your network. These are generally “workarounds” created by well-meaning employees, like someone who has bad connectivity in their office.

Even if they’re trying to be helpful, if you didn’t set it up, you don’t know what the security standards are like. Take the time to do access point scanning and make sure there’s not a backdoor to your network.

What You Can Do Right Now

As a small business owner, you might feel like you don’t have any information worth stealing, but that won’t stop hackers from gaining access to your network and taking whatever they can find. Make sure you’re not an easy target. Before you find yourself staring down a network breach, take some simple precautions to ensure that your network is secure.

  • Physically secure your router and devices.
  • Change the default configurations and passwords on your router.
  • Set up separate public and private networks.
  • Take advantage of new firmware and firewall software.
  • Look for Rogue Access Points that could provide a backdoor.

Martin Jones

Martin Jones is a Senior Marketing Manager with the corporate Cox Communications social media team where he assists in leading strategy, campaign ideation and marketing execution for Cox Business social media & content marketing. Today, over 1 million fans engage with Cox Communications content, campaigns and Customer Care on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube. LinkedIn and Google+.