First step in securing your Wi-Fi network: Don’t broadcast its name

Q: I have recently moved into a large apartment building. When setting up my internet (Xfinity, with a Gateway modem/router combo) the search for available networks turned up more than 25 of them.

I have a computer, smartphone and smart TV connected to my network. What’s your advice for staying safe from digital miscreants?

I’ve been confident in my security strategies in the past (I haven’t had any malware except the occasional PUP) but I’m feeling much more exposed these days.

— Dan O’Connell

A: By default, most if not all Wi-Fi routers broadcast their network names. As a result, anyone within range is almost being invited to try to log in. So the first step in securing your Wi-Fi is to turn off broadcast of your “station identifier.” The exact steps for doing so depend on the model of your router.

Next, connect to your router using a web browser and entering its IP address. (You’ll find that in the router’s manual.) Change the name of the router and give it a strong password.

Next, set the router to use WPA2 encryption.

Next, disable Wi-Fi Protected Setup. Designed to make connecting to your router easier, WPS works by pressing a button on both the router and the device you want to connect. But WPS has vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers.

Finally, make sure your router’s firmware is updated whenever there’s an update available.

Oh, and one more thing. Make sure the firewall on the router is running.

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Those are the basics. But if you want to take things a step further you can also use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt all traffic between your devices.

Q: My internet provider is CenturyLink, and my emails first go to their site. Years ago I set up Outlook 2013 on my PC and directed all my CenturyLink emails to automatically transfer to Outlook. 

A week ago I experienced a problem. Many of my emails were delayed for up to two days before they appeared on my Outlook. Some emails have a several-hour delay and others have a one- or two-day delay. 

The emails are arriving at the CenturyLink site quickly; however, they are not transferred quickly to my Outlook. My wife on another computer in our home is not experiencing any delays. She has the same internet provider and uses the same home internet connection as I do (Ethernet cable direct to the modem/router). The emails going out of my computer are not experiencing any delay.

— Jeff Hurlbut

A: Add-ins to Outlook can sometimes cause delays in the program checking for new mail. Try starting Outlook in safe mode by holding down the Ctrl key while you launch the program. Then see if the problem remains.

Another possible cause of the delay is your antivirus program. If you determine that there’s no Outlook add-in causing the issue, I’d check with the antivirus folks.

Q: In a recent column someone mentioned that they have been receiving notification about a Windows 10 update. I, too, have been receiving a similar notification. I hesitate to upload these updates because I am skeptical of their origin. 

Am I being hacked or scammed? No information about the sender. Do I assume it’s from Microsoft?

— Roberta Colthurst

A: Yes, I’d be suspicious of any such notice in an email. If you want to check whether there’s an update available for your Windows 10 computer, click on the Window icon that is in the system tray in the far left corner. Then select settings and, finally, “Updates and Security.” If there are any updates to be installed, you’ll find them there.

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