How To Create a Cyber Secure Home

Most homes have devices linked to their wireless networks, including computers, laptops, gaming devices, TVs, tablets, and smartphones that access the Internet. To protect your home network and your family, you need to have the right tools in place and confidence that you and your family members can use the Internet safely and securely.

Secure Your Computers / Devices

The first step is to keep a clean machine and make sure all of your Internet-enabled devices have the latest operating system, web browsers and security software. These are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats.  This includes mobile devices that access your wireless network.  Whenever possible, enable automatic updating.

If possible, have two computers at home: one for parents and one for the children.  If you are sharing one computer, make sure you have separate accounts for everyone and the children do not have privileged (administrative) access.

Secure Yourself

Cyber attackers have learned years ago that the best way to get something is simply to ask for it. Use your common sense as your best defense.  If a message seems odd, suspicious, or too good to be true, it may be an attack.   Examples:

Someone calls your pretending to be Microsoft tech support. They claim your computer is infected and would like remote access to your computer to “fix” it, or want you to purchase their fake anti-virus software.

“Phishing” emails are very convincing and are designed to fool you into opening an infected attachment or clicking on a malicious link. These emails may appear to come from a friend or organization you know.  If you are not sure or something just doesn’t look right, call the user or company using a phone number you know to be valid and legitimate.  With the explosion of social media, cyber criminals may even use details from your social media accounts to craft a customized message.

Secure Your Home Network

A wireless network means connecting an Internet access point – such as a cable modem – to a wireless router. Going wireless is a convenient way to allow multiple devices to connect to the Internet from different areas of your home. However, unless you secure your router, you’re vulnerable to people accessing information on your computer, using your Internet service for free and potentially using your network to commit cyber crimes.

  • Change the name of your router: The default ID – called a “service set identifier” (SSID) is assigned by the manufacturer. Change your router to a name that is unique to you and won’t be easily guessed by others.
  • Change the pre-set password on your router: When creating a new password, make sure it is long and strong, using a mix of numbers, letters and symbols.  Be careful with whom you share this password.
  • Configure your Wi-Fi network so that if anyone wants to join it, they must use the password.  Additionally, always configure your router to use the latest encryption, which is currently WPA2.
  • Be aware of all the devices connected to your home network, including baby monitors, gaming consoles, sound systems, TVs, and smartphones.   They all can be used as attack vectors into your homes.  Make sure that they are running the latest versions of the software (sometimes called firmware) on them, downloadable from the manufacturer.
  • If connecting to UMass Lowell resources (i.e. servers, network file shares, you must use the campus VPN solution ( to encrypt the traffic from your home device to the UMass Lowell network.

Secure your Accounts

Like most people, you probably have many accounts online and on your devices and computers. Here are some simple steps to protect them:

  • Always use strong passwords that are hard to guess.  If possible, use passphrases such as “RedSoxAreTheBest!”
  • Use different passwords for each of your accounts and devices.  If you have too many accounts and too many passwords, use a password manager to securely store them.  These are applications that securely store all of your passwords in an encrypted vault.
  • Use a two-step verification whenever possible.  This is also called 2 Factor Authentication (2FA).  This uses a password and something else to log into your account such as a code sent to your smartphone.  Banks have been using this for a few years now.
  • On social media sites, post only what you want the public to see.  Assume anything you post will eventually be seen by your neighbors, strangers, or even your management.

Have You Been Hacked?

No matter how secure you are, sooner or later you may become a victim of an online crime or even hacked. Here are some tips:

  • Create regular backups of all your personal information.  If your computer or mobile device is hacked, the only way you can recover all of your personal information may be from backups.
  • If one of your online accounts have been hacked, immediately log in and change your password to something strong and unique.  If you no longer have access, contact the company.  If you use that same password on other accounts, change it on those too.
  • Monitor all of your credit cards.  If you see any charges you do not recognize, contact the credit card company right away and consider “freezing” your credit.
  • When banking and shopping, check to be sure the sites is security enabled. Look for web addresses with “https://” which means the site takes extra measures to help secure your information. “http://” is not secure.