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Safeguarding the home network in the age of connectivity

28 Jan 2019

Article by Synology's network division senior manager, Kuei-Huan Chen.

The rise of digital devices has ushered in a new era of connectivity. From Bluetooth speakers to smart fridges, connected devices are becoming a normal part of the modern home. Yet with the number of connected devices projected to surpass 20 billion by 2020, the possibility of security breaches are higher than ever before.   
 
Traditional approaches to security have focussed on endpoints – from personal computers, mobile phones to speakers, most users concentrate their efforts around preventing the individual device from being compromised. Whilst this is an important part to network security, this overlooks a key aspect of any network: the internet router.
 
WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) typically relies on an eight-digit PIN which are often left unchanged from the default settings. In an ideal world, manually guessing all eight digits would take up to 6.3 years due to the security feature on some devices requiring a 60 second lock-down after three incorrect guesses. However, only the first four digits are actually needed to gain access to your network and not all devices have the lock-down feature, meaning that a WPS password would only require 10,000 guesses to break, a measly task for some software.
 
In contrast, the latest security standard WPA3 (Wi-Fi Protected Access) sets a new level of cryptographic strength which distinguishes it from its 14 years old predecessors, WPA2. Launched by the Wi-Fi Alliance in June 2018, WPA3 is designed to secure wireless computer networks against snooping and other attacks with new features including protections against brute-force attacks and protection for internet connected devices.
 
The implications of a network breach should not be underestimated. Not only can an attack cause individual devices to stop working, the network can also be hijacked as to maliciously monitor activity user activity. Financial fraud and identity theft are just some examples of the things that can happen due to a breach. In extreme cases, network cameras can be hacked to spy on the physical building. An unsecure network also leads to the possibility of DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks which can cripple the entire network.
 
As the push towards the Internet of Things (IoT) continues, securing the network with a reliable router is an important start. Beyond routers with the appropriate level of security, consider routers that offer a security function to prevent threats. This gives deep visibility into device traffic which would be critical in preventing and mitigating any threats. A holistic view of web traffic, for example, can identify when there are suspicious spikes of web traffic from a device.
 
Other nifty features which are now available on routers include parental control, wi-fi dashboards, and enhanced roaming experiences. 

As the popularity of smart home devices continue to develop, the number of connected devices will only increase. The number of possible cybersecurity threats will only increase in alignment with this. In order maximise the benefits of IoT devices, a secure network with a robust router should always be a prime consideration. 

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