What is a guest wifi network, why should you consider activating it and how can you use this feature to improve the cybersecurity of your home devices? There is a quick and easy way to increase the security of your wifi network by activating your router’s guest network.
The Internet is a Dangerous Place
There are several malicious players online, always looking for vulnerable machines to attack. The first line of defense of your home against their cyberattacks is your router. How? To understand this, we need to understand more about how the Internet and routers work.
A computer network is made up of a group of interconnected computers, communicating with each other via messages. The Internet is a large network of networks that operates on much the same principle. When you try to access a web page on your computer, it asks your router to tell the server that you are requesting that web page. The latter then sends the data from the web page back to your computer:
Your computer can request data from other networks. However, computers belonging to other networks can do the same and request data from your network. Among all these exchanges is your router, which acts as a first line of defense for your network’s devices and protects them from many cyberattacks on the Internet. Moreover, the safety role of a router is a good reason to use a high quality router to ensure adequate protection of your devices.
The fact that routers protect devices in their network is an important feature. This protection is by no means perfect. It is always possible for a device in your network to get infected with malware from the Internet either by a security flaw on the router or from software running on the device.
What happens then? What if a computer running malware is introduced to your network?
Adding an Unknown Device to your Wifi Network can be Dangerous
When you give your home wifi password to guests, their machines are connected to the same network as all your other home devices, and are given free rein to communicate with them in the network. If the new machine added to the network is infected with malware, it may use that chance to spread itself to other machines in the network, or commit other types of malicious activity such as serving as a proxy server to help hide the actions of malicious hackers, attempt to commit man-in-the-middle attacks, or steal your bandwidth for nefarious purposes such as Distributed Denial of Service attacks. Even if you trust your guest, their machine may contain malware without their knowledge, potentially introducing it to your network.
The guest wifi network and the Internet of Things
There are other issues that a guest network can help mitigate. Internet of Things devices such as smart fridges, light bulbs and TVs are notorious for often being built with poor cybersecurity protection. They may become infected with malware while communicating with the Internet, and subsequently allow a hacker to attempt to spread said malware to other machines in your network. Putting these devices into a guest network with more strict access control rules will protect your main network from any malware that might run in these devices.
Why the guest wifi network?
The guest network is a great feature to help protect your devices from malware in these situations. A guest network is a separate wifi network maintained by your router, for the purpose of being used by guests to your home and devices that were built with poor security, such as IoT devices or older machines that no longer receive security updates. It works much like your normal wifi network: when configuring it, you give it a name and a password, and it’ll show up on devices as a separate wifi network when they attempt to connect. Then, when you wish to grant access to the wifi network, you can direct them to connect on their devices to your guest network instead of your main, personal network.
Additionally, routers often offer useful access control features for the guest wifi. For example, you may configure the guest wifi to allow devices to only communicate with the Internet, but not with other devices in the network. By isolating these devices into the guest network, you protect your other personal devices containing more important sensitive data such as your smartphone or personal computer from being attacked by these devices via the local network in the case that they are infected by malware.
The guest network also adds a simple way to revoke previous guests’ access without affecting your personal machines. All you have to do is change the guest network password.
How to Activate the Guest Wifi Network on your Router
We recommend that you check your manufacturer’s instructions on how to proceed, as they may change over time due to updates. Look for your provider’s instructions on the Internet.
IT and Cybersecurity Analyst