- A router acts as a hardware firewall by preventing unauthorized attempts to access your computers over the Internet. A router creates a private network; the router itself is directly connected to the Internet, while the computers are not. Additionally, a router is configured to ignore all incoming traffic not requested by one of the computers on the network. Therefore, if a hacker connects to random addresses on the Internet in an attempt to find a vulnerability and happens upon your router's address, it will not send a response to the hacker, because your computer did not request the information. This effectively makes your router and network invisible on the Internet.
- A router requires an administrator password before it will allow its settings to be modified. This is the case even if someone uses an Ethernet cable to connect a computer to the router directly. If you change the default password of your router to a complex password that is difficult to guess immediately upon setting your home network up, the password will serve as a deterrent for access attempts.
- All wireless routers have the ability to encrypt traffic. Routers use radio signals to send and receive data. It is therefore possible for someone within range of your wireless router to use a receiver to intercept this traffic. If you enable your router's encryption features, however, the hacker would be unable to decrypt that traffic into any form of usable data. Decryption requires a complicated alphanumeric key, and the most powerful forms of encryption are extremely difficult to break.
MAC Address Filtering
- Your computer's wireless network adapter has a type of internal serial number called a Media Access Control (MAC) address. Using a feature called MAC address filtering, you can configure your wireless router to accept traffic only from MAC addresses you enter. A computer without an allowed MAC address will be unable to join your wireless network. There are trillions of possible MAC addresses. Therefore, if you enable both encryption and MAC address filtering on your wireless router, it will be extremely difficult for anyone to access your network or data without your authorization.
Other Security Features
- Some router manufacturers add additional proprietary security features to their products. For example, certain Belkin routers include a feature called Memory Safe, which facilitates automatic computer backups to an external hard drive connected to the router. Certain Linksys routers have built-in controls that allow parents to monitor and restrict their children's access to the Internet. Check your wireless router's instruction manual to learn about any proprietary security features not described in this article.