Tech Tips: Securing Your Agency Data By Securing Your Agency Wireless Router

Tech Tips will be a regular feature on our blog, courtesy of IIANC Technology Consultant, George Robertson, CISR. George has more than 25 years of experience in the insurance and technology industry, with 12 of those being a fellow independent agency owner.

Many agencies are not aware that their own internal wireless router is not secure. I would venture to say that most have not even changed the Admin Password setting from the original factor settings. Wireless routers allow computers to connect to the agency network to access information on the system and the internet. Potential hackers can have a field day with gaining access to your agency data if the router is not re-configured from the factory settings.

In this technology tip, we will focus on what agency owners need to know about their wireless routers and how to resolve potential threats to your network.  Below are some suggested ideas for helping to secure your wireless router and your data.

  1. First, change the default Service Set Identifier (SSID).  Most vendors of wireless routers will have a standard SSID.  If left unchanged, a knowledgeable hacker would find it easier to login to your network and gain access to your agency data.  If the SSID has not been changed, then most likely the SSID password has not been changed either.  You can locate the instructions on how to change the SSID from the manufacture of the wireless router and you could also Google “how to change the SSID for my (insert vendor name)?”. 
    • TIP:  When changing the SSID DO NOT use the name of your agency or anything pertaining to insurance.  If you use your agency name, this is like an advertisement to a hacker.  Try using something non-descriptive, but something your team will know.
  2. Do not broadcast your SSID unless absolutely necessary.  If you have ever been in a public place looking for WiFi, you have seen all of the broadcasted SSID’s in your area.  Most routers will by default enable broadcasting of the SSID.  You can change this in the settings and set broadcasting to be disabled.
  3. Change the admin username and password.  Most wireless routers will come with a default username and password.  Some of these default username passwords are available online, thus giving hackers easy access. 
    • TIP:  Make the password at least 8 to 12 characters with uppercase, lowercase, symbols, and numbers.
  4. Change router passwords at least every quarter and each time an employee leaves your agency.
  5. Configure the WiFi protected access to WPA2+AES.  Each router will have several different protection options.  Among those are WPA2+AES and WEP.  Using WEP is easier for hackers to gain access so you want to make the WiFi protected access to WPA2.  
  6. Disable Remote Management – This will prevent potential hackers from gaining access to your router on a wide area network.  If you are using an outside IT firm, discuss this with them in case they need access.
    • TIP:  Make sure you have a Business Associate Agreement with the Vendor.  (Look for a future article on Business Associate Agreements.)
  7. Make sure the router is in a secured and locked area to prevent tampering for unauthorized individuals.
  8. Guest Accounts – It is not advisable to have a guest account unless you can restrict the user to specific devices and off of the company network.  If your agency would like to offer wireless services, talk with your internet provider and IT consultant to setup a separate network to provide this service.  Some wireless routers will provide the ability to create a separate network that limits access to certain devices, but allows internet access.
  9. Wireless Routers & Firewalls – Most consumer grade wireless routers will have a firewall, but it is recommended that your agency have a separate firewall or verify with your IT consultant that your wireless router has a more sophisticated industrial strength firewall.
  10. Update the Router Firmware – Just like your operating system, you should update your router firmware with the most recent versions.   Check your router on a regular basis to see if any updates are available.  If your router is not updated, you run the risk of hackers exploiting the system.

These are just a few suggested ways to secure your wireless router and help prevent a potential hacker from gaining access to your valuable data. 

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