Big networks get all the glory. They have teams of IT guys that work around the clock watching after the network. Meanwhile, small networks are just as vulnerable to attacks and hackers. What can you do to keep your small network safe without keeping your own IT guy on salary?
For starters, you can go buy a new router. Your router, if more than several years old, probably needs an upgrade. You can get a new router from $30 up to $150, but the functionality is the same. The nicer routers are usually wireless and have extra antennae and other bells and whistles that aren’t really necessary. A new router is more likely to have newer security measures to provide you with a stronger firewall that blocks more, broader kinds of intrusions.
Next, you can make sure the router is installed correctly by having someone help you install it. The install process can be really quick if done by someone who knows what they’re doing. I know what you’re thinking, “I can do this myself.” This might be true, but isn’t it worth having a professional make sure its done right? If nothing else, isn’t it worth having someone to blame if it doesn’t work? By hiring someone to install the router, you make sure you have the right settings to provide security for your network, your wireless network, and your firewall.
After you’ve got the network setup, it’s good to periodically check our the router to see what’s going on with it. Routers, like most pieces of IT, have logs that keep records of various aspects of the device. For some routers, you get incoming and outgoing logs of traffic, which can be very useful for isolating a problem device on the network. I’ve seen situations where one computer tried to make connections to suspicious sites overseas repeatedly, so I can pretty much assume that one needs to be checked out. Its also good to check your DHCP pool for unauthorized clients, especially if you have a wireless network.
Another way to keep your router secure is by updating its hardware with the latest firmware. The firmware is the programming that makes the router work. Usually the manufacturers update the firmware when new bugs are fixed or issues resolved. You can find these updates on the manufacturer’s website, often accompanied with an explanation of what it fixes. One really cool thing with firmware is manufacturers can actually build in new funtionality, meaning your device has new options or new operations it can perform. That in and of itself is a good reason to check for firmware updates.
All of the devices on your network need to be protected with firewalls and antivirus software. This keeps any computer from becoming the burden to the rest of the network by pulling more than its fair share of bandwidth. Another bandwidth hog is file sharing programs, like uTorrent or Limewire, which grab a lot of download and upload speed in return for free movies or music. Not only is it illegal, but it seriously increases your chance of catching a virus or just having poor network performance.
Your network is your connection to the internet. It is your way online. It is also what keeps out unwanted elements of the web, which I can assure you, are aplenty. Keep it up-to-date, protected with antivirus, and free of unwanted bad applications, and it should continue to serve you usefully well into the future.