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Secure your Wi-Fi against hackers - firmware management & DNS usage

Lock down your Wi-Fi network and find devices that are stealing your bandwidth – and, potentially, your data

More tips for helping you secure your wi-fi network against hackers, including firmware management, and DNS servers.

4. Update your firmware

A router displaying various signal strength LEDs

Alarmingly, only 14% of British broadband users have updated their router's firmware, according to the aforementioned Broadband Genie research. We're surprised this figure is as high as it is, in all honesty, and if you're among the 86% who haven't updated the system software, then we'd encourage you to do so as soon as possible. Doing so is guaranteed to boost your network security, and at no extra cost in terms of money or time. This, ironically, is a crucial step the majority of people fail to commit to.   

As for why this is the case, the mindset among many in homes and small businesses may be one that isn't compatible with the idea of regular 'patch management'. Updating Windows 10 may be one thing, and most of us are used to waiting for Microsoft's flagship OS to upgrade itself at a moment's notice, but translating this practice to all devices and software may be another challenge entirely. While most routers may well have an automatic update toggle, a firmware upgrade may revert this to a default setting where this is disabled, so it's crucial to check whether this applies to your router after each update.

5. Try a different DNS server

Letters DNS displayed on a blue high tech background

Just as you can install an alternative to the firmware that runs your router, you can choose a different Domain Name System (DNS) server instead of the ISP default. There may come a time when the DNS servers used by your ISP come under attack, by a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, for example, or someone changing the DNS to effect a cloned banking fraud. The bigger ISPs are a target for this since the consequences of hacking their DNS servers would be enormous.

We've seen the DNS servers of the larger providers suffer downtime, so having a backup and knowing how to flick the switch is useful. The most common choice will be Google Public DNS server (on 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4 for the IPv4 service) or OpenDNS (on 208.67.220.220 and 208.67.222.222).

Essentially, though, open your router admin panel and look for the Domain Name Server addresses configuration page; input a primary and secondary DNS IP. Some routers will have a third server option, and for OpenDNS this would be 208.67.222.220. And that's it, other than to test it's working by hitting the Test button on the OpenDNS guide pages.

Certain providers prevent you from adjusting the DNS server addresses in their own-brand routers, but you can still set individual computers to seek alternate servers.

Our list continues on the next page with tips on preventing attacks before they begin

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