Want to Learn More about Your Computer's Network Security? Start Here
Security is one of the most important elements of networking
As technology has progressed, more and more data has begun moving back and forth from one computer network to another every day—personal as well as business data. Although there is no single sure-fire way to fully protect a network, a basic understanding of the elements of network security can go a long way for the average consumer.
Protecting hardware from physical theft or damage is the most basic aspect of network security, but it is often overlooked.
Large companies spend a great deal of money to keep servers and other parts of their networks locked away in secure facilities. Though the average consumer can't—and probably doesn't need to—do the same for their own network, it is a good idea to keep the router someplace private where guests can't get to it.
In addition, keep an eye on your mobile devices. It's easy for small handheld items to fall out of a pocket or get left behind somewhere or—if you don't pay close attention—even stolen. Whenever you use a mobile device in public, stay alert to your surroundings, and make sure to put it away when you're finished using it.
Lastly, if you let another person use your device, always keep that person in your sight. Hackers only need a few minutes to steal personal information, install malicious software, or otherwise affect your device if you let them out of your sight.
When used correctly, passwords can be very effective at improving your network security. But when password management is not taken seriously, it can be easy for hackers to break into the network.
Follow these best practices for managing your passwords to make it harder for hackers:
- Set a strong password or passcode on each and every device that joins your network
- Change the default administrator password on the network router(s)
- If possible, set up a guest network for use by visitors and guests rather than sharing your network password
- If you think too many people may know your password, change it
You've probably heard of spyware—illegal software programs that can infect computers and networks. They are often downloaded automatically when a user visits a certain website. Spyware doesn't need physical access to your devices, nor does it need a network password.
Different types of spyware are used for different purposes. Some simply monitor users' browsing habits and report the data back to companies, which use it to create ads more directly targeted to the users. Another kind—known as keylogger software—records and sends the history of every keyboard key pressed by the user, which enables hackers to figure out the user's passwords and credit card numbers.
Spyware is very hard to detect and remove. For this reason, security experts recommend that you install and run anti-spyware software on your networks.
Many parties try to monitor our online habits and movements even beyond the scope of spyware. Stalkers, identity thieves, and other ill-meaning people can do a great deal of harm by invading our online privacy. For instance, public Wi-Fi hotspots can be used to determine a person's location, and social network activities and network IP addresses can reveal information about our identities.
The only way to maintain total privacy online is to have no digital footprint whatsoever—to not use the Internet or even be mentioned or shown on it by name or in an image. This is becoming harder and harder to do today, so it's important to do what we can to protect our privacy as fully as possible. You can do this by using an anonymous Web proxy server or a virtual private network.