Home network security is the process of detecting unauthorized users or intruders and preventing unauthorized use of the computer.
The scope of home network security (wireless or not) includes monitoring network activity, identifying attempts made by hackers to intrude, and taking effective preemptive steps to safeguard the computer from such intrusions. Another dimension of home network security is to regulate the users who access the network by controlling their rights and privileges, to prevent misuse and maintain system integrity and uptime.
Ways of Attack
Hackers and other intruders infiltrate home networks in several ways, including:
- Enticing users to click on email or chat attachments, or on download programs that contain Trojan horse or other malware.
- Cross-site scripting, or attaching a script to a URL, an element in a form, or a database inquiry
- Using packet-sniffer program to capture user names, password, and other data as they travel over the network, and gain unauthorized access using back door or remote administration tools
- Taking advantage of vulnerabilities in unprotected windows shares in any unit of the network
Having gained access, the Trojan horses and other malware operate in numerous ways, such as by executing malicious code using ActiveX, Java, and Java Script that run on web browsers, or by sending information such as keystroke logging, browsing habits, and files stored in computer to the external controller of such Trojans by stealth.
The best safeguard for home networks against unauthorized intrusion is a combination of sound network administration practice and a policy to govern usage habits.
Some of the recommended network administration practices are:
- Installing anti-virus software, and turning auto-updates on, to support automatic updates of virus definitions
- Using firewall, either software based or hardware based, to prevent intruders from taking advantage of vulnerabilities
- Disabling the “hide filename” extension in Windows operating system to identify malware
- Not installing or running unauthorized programs, or programs not made by credible vendors
- Enabling auto-updates for programs and download patches for operating systems and other applications on a regular basis
- Switching off access to the internet when not required
- Disabling scripting features in email programs for the same reason as those mentioned above
Some good user habits that reduce the chances of attacks include
- Refraining from opening unknown or unsolicited email or chat application attachments, or downloading programs from dubious third party websites
- Disconnecting access to the network connection before opening any downloaded file, and disconnecting the computer from the network when not in use
- Refraining from following unknown or untrustworthy links in web pages, email messages, and newsgroup postings to prevent cross site scripting attacks
- Not patronizing interactive forums such as online discussions on untrustworthy sites
Prevention is better than cure, but the best of safeguards notwithstanding, networks may sometimes succumb to attacks.
Taking regular backups of critical data and making a boot disk if the attack results in hard disk failure are two safeguards that help to recover from an attack.
Effective home network security help in keeping sensitive personal information safe, prevent data loss, and prevent intruders from using the computers in the network as platforms to send out malware, phishing, Distributed Denial of Service, and other similar nefarious acts.