Secure your internet connection
Your internet connection is a channel from the outside world into your computer. If it isn't secured properly someone may use it to get to your information or hijack your connection or computer for their own purposes.
If you use a modem or router:
- change the default administrator (admin) password for the device
- disable remote management
- prevent unnecessary incoming connections
- disable unneeded services.
Secure your wireless network
Having an unsecured wireless network can allow anyone within range to access your network or use your internet connection. They could use up your download allowance (possibly resulting in excess usage fees), intercept and read your email or, more seriously, use your account to access illegal content or undertake criminal activities.
If you are using a wireless connection to connect to the internet, or between other computers in your home or business (a wireless network), make sure you can protect your connection.
The access point makes itself known to other wireless devices (like the wireless card in your computer) by broadcasting an identification number (SSID). Computers that have a wireless card, and have permission to access the wireless frequency, can use this connection.
Because wireless networks do not require a wire between a computer and the internet connection, it is possible for anyone within range to intercept the signal if it is unprotected.
If you use a wireless network:
- Change the default SSID and administration username and password.
- Turn off your SSID broadcast.
- Turn encryption on and use the strongest encryption option available.
- Restrict access so that only specific computers or devices can access the network.
- Turn off remote access.
- Turn off your wireless connection when you are not using it.
Change the default SSID and administration username and password
Wireless hardware and software usually comes with a default digital name - your service set identification number (SSID) – and default administration username and password set by the manufacturer. These are standard names and passwords that any person with the intention of accessing your wireless connection is likely to know.
Change the SSID, if you can, to something unique (that does not include the brand name of the router) and set a strong administration password on your wireless network.
Turn off your SSID broadcast
By default your wireless access point will broadcast its SSID. This makes it easy for any devices nearby to see the network. While this makes it easier for you to connect, it also makes it easier for other people to find and connect to your network.
Hide your network by turning off the SSID broadcast. You can manually enter the SSID into any device you want to connect. You will only have to do this once.
Turn encryption on and use the strongest encryption option available
Encryption scrambles information according to a particular formula, making it very hard for anyone to make sense of your transmitted data if they manage to intercept that data.
Make sure you have encryption turned on and choose the strongest encryption option available. WEP offers the most basic protection and should only be used if there are no other options available, such as WPA or WPA2.
Restrict access so that only specific computers or devices can access the network
You should restrict access to your wireless network to specific computers that you nominate.
Every computer connected to your network uses a network adaptor. Each one of these has a unique 12-digit identifier called a MAC (Media Access Control) address. To give specific computers permission to use your network, add their MAC addresses to the wireless network through the wireless software settings.
The MAC address of a computer can sometimes be found on a sticker attached to the computer. Alternatively, most wireless routers can tell you the MAC address of the computers connecting to them.
Turn off remote access
Turn off any feature your hardware has that allows you to give administration access to someone off-site.
Turn off the connection
Turn off your wireless connection when you are not using it.
Protect your web browser
Exploiting email and web browsing applications are the most common ways hackers and malware try to gain access to devices and your information. It is important to make sure these applications are up-to-date, the security settings are appropriate, and that applications are used safely.
Web browsers include:
- Apple Safari (comes with Macs, iPhones, iPads)
- Internet Explorer (comes with the Windows operating system including Windows Phone devices)
- Android Internet (comes with Android devices)
- Mozilla Firefox
- Google Chrome
Vulnerabilities, which hackers can exploit, may exist in either a browser itself or in the plugins it uses for advanced functionality. You must determine your level of compromise as increased security can limit access to functionality. For example high settings may mean that the page does not display correctly or embedded content (like videos) will not work.
Browsers differ significantly in how the user can alter settings. However, optimising browser security generally involves:
- ensuring the browser itself is the most up-to-date version available
- either disabling plug-ins entirely or making sure they are the most up to date version
- changing how different websites can access basic and advanced web functionality, for example specify 'trusted' web sites which can access higher levels of functionality than others
- changing settings or behaviour which affects convenience, for example 'remember me' or 'remember my password' options which – while convenient – may compromise security.
Ensure your device is set to always use the browser which you have set up securely. You can set or change your default browser at any time.
Cookies and security
Cookies are small bits of information left on your computer by websites you have visited which let the website 'remember' things about you. Even temporary information, such as the items you have in your shopping cart at a web retailer, may depend on cookies.
Accessing security settings on your browser
The settings and security models vary from browser to browser differ significantly. It is important to note that if your device has different profiles or logins for different users, the browser security settings may need to be changed separately for each user.
- Apple Safari web settings
- Changing Internet Explorer security settings
- Managing Mozilla Firefox security settings
- Google Chrome advanced security settings
- Guide to security and privacy in Opera.
Where to get help
|You are experiencing difficulties connecting to the internet||Your internet service provider.|
|You are looking for more information on securing your desktop or laptop computer, or browser settings||
|Information on recent threats||Sign up to the free Stay Smart Online Alert Service.|
A full list of useful contacts can be found on the Contact us page.
Find out more:
- Protect your computer – stop intrusions Stay Smart Online video
- Wireless internet security Stay Smart Online video
- Stay Smart Online Small business self-assessment tool
- Australian Government Digital Business website