Cybersecurity for the Non-technical Person, Part 2

Dr. Lynne Williams, Kaplan University Faculty, MSIT and MSCM Programs

Many of us at Kaplan University are lucky enough to be able to work from home. In order to effectively work from home, we naturally have to have internet connectivity, and internet connectivity exposes us to a variety of online dangers and risks. Still, you don’t need to be a cybersecurity pro to proactively protect yourself from online risk.

Most internet connections these days are broadband, either DSL (comes in through your landline wiring) or cable (uses coaxial cabling similar to cable television). In both cases, you’ve probably got a modem/router that was given to you by your Internet Service Provider [ISP]. This modem/router is your “gateway” to the internet and contains settings that can be tweaked to help you protect your connection and thus your data.

All devices on your home network have individual addresses so that the modem/router can keep track of them; these are called the Internet Protocol addresses or IP addresses. Typically your modem/router is the controller of IP addresses and is in charge of assigning them to all of the devices on your home network. When you want to access your modem/router, you will use its IP address. If you don’t know your modem/router’s IP address, you can look at the manual that came with it or look up the manual online by searching for the make and model. You can also make a pretty good guess at the router’s IP address since gateway devices are usually given the first IP address in the set of addresses. A typical gateway IP address would look like this: 192.168.1.1 If you type the gateway IP address into your web browser, this will bring up the user interface for your modem/router. If you haven’t logged in before, the device will be using the default credentials; your manual will have the default login credentials in it.

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Once you’ve logged into your modem/router, you should change the default credentials and make sure that you note down the new credentials in your manual. Next, check that the modem/router’s firewall is active; where you find this setting will depend on the make and model of your router. You can test the security of your firewall with this free port test: https://www.grc.com/x/ne.dll?rh1dkyd2

Having strong “perimeter” security in the form of a firewall is always good security practice, and changing the default credentials goes a long way toward not getting hacked. The default credentials from hundreds of home type modem routers are freely available on the internet. In fact, cyber hackers can use the the Shodan search engine to detect routers that are using the default credentials; don’t let them get into your network without a fight!

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