Tag Archives: product news

An upgraded network to deliver next generation multi-gig internet service


At GFiber, we are striving to be an internet company for the next generation of Internet users — meeting the challenges of today and building for the demands of tomorrow. This only happens by anticipating what’s coming and being ready for it before it gets here. We’re striving to always be one step ahead, so our customers never have to worry about their internet. From continuing to push multi-gig speeds to the home and in the home to using AI and machine learning across many facets of our business, we’re working to make next gen internet the reality right now. 

A Modern Network Built for Today. . .and Tomorrow
Last month, we rolled out 5 Gig and 8 Gig in San Antonio. While we’ve been making announcements like this regularly over the last 15 months, this isn’t just an empty promise designed to make headlines. This milestone marks a huge step forward for Google Fiber’s entire network and our ability to serve our customers well into the future. With the San Antonio launch, nearly all GFiber customers in single family homes can get our full range of symmetrical multi-gig products. This is a fundamentally different way to deploy a better network. GFiber is upgrading our entire network infrastructure — proactively replacing our GPON network with XGS PON — not picking and choosing specific neighborhoods or streets, to ensure we have a cutting-edge network for today and one that can support our customers’ future internet needs. 


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This also means that no matter the age of the network — whether in our “hometown” of Kansas City or our newest metro of Omaha — GFiber customers are served by the same state-of-the-art network architecture. GFiber is investing in the holistic customer experience to ensure that customers have exactly what they need when it comes to their internet. To do this right, speed to the home, speed in the home, and the quality and reliability of that speed are all equally important. By the end of 2024, we expect almost all our new customers to be on XGS infrastructure, which will set them up for future needs. But we’re not stopping there - we are also deploying Nokia 25G PON technology across our cities to go beyond 8 Gig (more on that later).

Powerful Wi-Fi that Complements our Network
But speed to the home is just the beginning. No matter how much internet is coming into your home, Wi-Fi will dictate the speed reality for the vast majority of customers. GFiber is just as obsessed with speed in the home; that is, speed over Wi-Fi. Over the past year, we’ve retired legacy routers and moved to deploy Wi-Fi 6E to all new customers. We’ve also proactively replaced our legacy network boxes with newer devices and all 1 Gig+ products include mesh extenders — both at no cost to our customers. And by the end of 2024, we’re planning to incorporate new Wi-Fi 7 devices into our offerings as they become readily available. In fact, we’re already using a custom built Wi-Fi 7 solution with our GFiber Labs 20 Gig product.  

These advances make multi-gig speeds over Wi-Fi possible. More importantly, they ensure that customers get the experience they expect and that they can truly use the internet they are paying for. Consumer devices and apps will continue to evolve to be able to harness more and more speed. As GFiber customers upgrade their devices, they will be rewarded with speed boosts because they already have the right network, routers and extenders in their homes.

Quality you can count on - literally
GFiber’s quality of service approach doesn’t stop at the front door. To make sure that we’re delivering on our service promise, we’re continuing to up our game to keep our network strong. We’re obsessed with proactively identifying potential issues, so we’re doing proactive sweeps of our entire network daily and using advanced telemetry technologies to monitor both our network and equipment. Our technicians and support reps also have these same tools.  

We want our customers to have visibility into the quality of their in-home internet experience,  so we’re launching a personalized home network quality score in the next few months. It’s also why we are intensely focused on providing a whole home quality score. This score sums up the robustness of our network for each customer on connectivity, speed, and coverage  — all the way to the GFiber Wi-Fi router and beyond to the mesh extender. It includes the quality of the internet coming into their home and to the router, how well their network is working inside their home, down to whether the extender is positioned ideally in the home to maximize coverage. Through the GFiber App, customers will have more transparency into their network, and have the tools they need to ensure their network is working as intended. 



Preparing for what’s next — GFiber Labs

This is really just the beginning. How we use the internet is only getting more advanced and what we demand of our network today will seem laughable in retrospect. GFiber Labs is aiming to take on this challenge, in partnership with other companies, working to push the internet forward. We announced that we would be deploying Nokia 25G PON to enable us to offer symmetrical 20 Gig in every city by the end of 2024. We’ve begun incremental upgrades from XGS to 25G as part of our GFiber Labs early access to this product. Response was incredible, we had over 4000 people express interest in being one of the first to try out 20 Gig, and we started installs in the Triangle in North Carolina in April.

We’ve already seen some pretty incredible use cases from some of our 20 Gig testers. Austin PBS is using 20 Gig to upload the entire archive of 50 years of Austin City Limits, and in Provo, the United Way of Utah County is putting 20 Gig to work to serve the community and better connect their clients. 

Our goal is to anticipate what’s coming and build the ISP for the next generation of internet customers. What’s at stake? Everything! Our customers, our employees, a better internet, and an innovative online experience that drives progress across the industry for all of us. We are working to be better at every point in the internet delivery process and to help move the entire ecosystem forward with us. This isn’t just the next gen internet we know that our customers deserve, it’s the one they will need. 

Posted by John Keib, Chief Technology & Product Officer



Now, everything’s really up-to-date in Kansas City – 8 Gig available in all GFiber KC service areas


We’re launching 8 Gig in our largest and oldest market — the original Google Fiber metro — Kansas City. The city was recently designated as one of the country’s 31 Tech Hubs by the federal government, a move that recognized both the incredible assets and resources already in the area and the potential for innovation that that infrastructure represents. GFiber is proud to have been part of that growth and development over the past twelve years, helping to drive innovation and testing the limits of speed as our first test site for 20 Gig. 

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KC was also one of the first GFiber cities to get our 5 Gig service. We’ve been steadily rolling out our new multigig products in Google Fiber cities across the country since early last year. To do this, we’re updating our network in each city to XGS PON to ensure that we can meet our customers’ needs as they grow over time. We’re upgrading our network holistically across all our markets. 

Included in the monthly cost, 8 Gig customers get symmetrical upload and download speeds of up to 8000 Mbps (wired), along with the GFiber Wi-Fi 6E Router (which allows for up to 1600 Mbps over Wi-Fi) and up to two Mesh Extenders for strong whole home Wi-Fi coverage and, as always, unlimited data, professional installation, and access to GFiber’s highly rated 24/7 customer service.   

You may be wondering why it’s taken us about a year to bring 8 Gig to Kansas City when it was one of the original cities to get 5 Gig in 2023 while other cities have gotten 8 Gig sooner. KC is our largest market — so supporting 8 Gig speeds across our entire service area required us to touch infrastructure across every part of the Kansas City metro area. This is great news not just for our newest 8 Gig customers, but for all our KC customers (and in other cities too), because it means that GFiber’s network is set up to support rising demand for more speed for years to come.

Kansas City has been on the forefront of internet speed since the very beginning, and it’s still very much on the fast track — sign up for 8 Gig here!

Posted by Nick Saporito, Head of Product




Speed on Business-Trimming with Speed

Our small business blog series Speed on Business relaunches featuring Thomas Powell, owner of Tru Skills Barber Shop, a barber shop/ clothing store (SnSlivelife) in Atlanta, who also owns a convenience store called The Village Bodega. He shared with us how access to fast reliable internet has improved service and impacted customer satisfaction in both of his businesses and helped him build on that success.

At Tru Skills Barber Shop, we pride ourselves in putting smiles on every customer that walks through our doors. I opened the shop in 2017, inspired by the understanding and ideology that everyone should look and also feel the effects of a good haircut in a safe and professional environment.

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We are located in the Buckhead Optimist Lofts in downtown Atlanta- ready to serve customers with the best hair cuts, hairstyles and our urban motivational wear clothing and accessories. 

Our experienced professional barbers/ stylist engage in detailed discussions to understand your hair goals, preferences, and the look you’re aiming for. Then using a combination of skills, top tier products and styling tools create amazing haircuts and hairstyles. Our customers always feel valued and satisfied as their hair is transformed into an art form- at the end of the appointment. 
   

Barber shops historically serve a unique social function for community gathering, conversations and camaraderie in the black community. We showcase and sell our SnSLivelife urban wear products at the shop and host events such as podcast interviews to discuss important topics that benefit the community. The motivational clothing brand was initially curated in 2003 to promote the importance of taking struggles and creating a strong powerful life. The two businesses go hand in hand- creating a one stop shop to look and feel good.


An important factor to achieving all this, is having reliable internet. I switched over to Google Fiber four years ago, as soon service was available in my area- and I have been with them ever since. Prior to switching over to GFiber, I experienced issues with download speed and Wi-Fi latency with the internet service I previously had in the shop.

Now, with GFiber internet, booking appointments has been seamless. Customers can easily schedule their preferred time slots with no delay. Credit card transactions are processed swiftly, making the payment process smoother and more efficient. We often have several customers come in for appointments at the same time, and they can all enjoy uninterrupted streaming of their favorite shows or music on their devices or on our tv monitors during their appointments. 



Having reliable and fast internet has been a game-changer for us. The speed and reliability we’ve experienced have not only enhanced our operational efficiency but have also elevated the overall customer experience. Customers give us great reviews for having a premium grooming and shopping experience from start to finish, and our internet is an integral part of that experience.

So come on out and visit us anytime you are in the Atlanta metro area. In fact, if you bring this blog, you can get 10 percent off our products and services this month.

Posted by, Thomas Powell, Owner & Designer at Tru Skills Barber Shop/ SnS Live Life Clothing



CES 2024: Wi-Fi 7 and the future of connectivity

The dust is settling from the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, but one thing is clear: the dawn of Wi-Fi 7 is here. The Wi-Fi Alliance officially certified the Wi-Fi 7 standards on January 8th, marking a pivotal moment in the journey toward bringing this faster, more reliable wireless technology to market. Most of our lives depend on Wi-Fi every day — the technology allows our home devices to connect with the internet, giving us access to information, entertainment, education and so much more. That is why the advancement in Wi-Fi technology is important, for it impacts our connectivity experience.

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This news of the next generation of Wi-Fi definitely made waves at CES 2024. The event buzzed with announcements of lots of new devices that support Wi-Fi 7 — from smartphones, to smart home devices, to more innovative devices — the industry has begun gearing up to embrace the power of Wi-Fi 7. Google Fiber is no exception — we’re excited about the Wi-Fi Alliance’s certification of Wi-Fi 7 because it opens the door to even more multi-gig speeds and reduced latency over Wi-Fi networks.


The biggest innovation with Wi-Fi 7 is Multi-Link Operation (MLO), which allows packets to be sent over multiple frequencies simultaneously. Prior generations of Wi-Fi only used one frequency band at a time.This means that one device which supports Wi-Fi 7 can talk to an access point over multiple radios and frequency bands at the same time.

Wi-Fi 7 devices can select from either a 2.4, 5, or 6 GHz band and are able to choose the Wi-Fi band that offers the most efficient and reliable path to the router. The result is lower latency and improved reliability, resulting in a better experience for internet users.

We know that great wireless internet is key to our customers’ in-home experience, so we spend a lot of time working on making it better (even when it’s already good). In 2023, we deployed Wi-Fi 6E routers with tri-band connectivity, built to handle more devices with fewer slowdowns.

Our focus and commitment to delivering speed to the home and in the home is exactly why we’re including a Wi-Fi 7 router for GFiber Labs 20 Gig customers. Wi-Fi 7 is a longer-term solution, if you’re thinking about purchasing a new smartphone, TV, tablet, computer, or other devices in 2024, you may want to consider whether they are Wi-Fi 7 compatible. You can have the latest high-powered router but the compatibility of your Wi-Fi devices also impacts your online experience. Our device guide can help determine Wi-Fi compatibility for your devices.

CES exhibitors unveiled cool new devices and products that support Wi-Fi 7 and are coming soon. Dell introduced two new laptops — the Dell XPS 16 laptop and the Dell Alienware M15 R2 gaming laptop, which are expected to be released in Q1 '24. Samsung announced its Galaxy S24 Ultra smartphone, and Acer announced a new gaming router; the Wi-Fi 7 Predator Connect X7 5G CPE, which offers dual connectivity (an ethernet network and 5G service).

Wi-Fi Alliance’s certification of Wi-Fi 7 ushers in a host of new possibilities, and GFiber is committed to making sure that our customers can harness the speed of their internet. Expect more from us soon to help make your in-home internet even faster.

Posted by Ishan Patel, Product Manager



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Wi-Fi Focus: How to Get the Best Wi-Fi On Your Devices


Understanding your Wi-Fi technology and how it was built to support your devices is the key to getting the most out of them. Why? Because many of the Wi-Fi enabled devices in your home were built on a Wi-Fi standard, which impacts the Wi-Fi speeds you'll get. 


What’s a Wi-Fi standard?

A Wi-Fi standard is a set of rules created by the The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The IEEE is the world's largest technical professional organization that defines how Wi-Fi devices communicate with each other. In short, it’s the system your devices use when connecting wirelessly. There are many different Wi-Fi standards, also called Wi-Fi technologies. Some standards you may be familiar with are Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E and the soon-to-launch, Wi-Fi 7. Each new Wi-Fi standard is faster and more efficient than the previous one. (That’s why older devices may not go as fast as newer ones.) 


Want to see what we’re doing with Wi-Fi 7? Check out our demo


How do Wi-Fi standards impact devices?

Some devices only support certain standards of Wi-Fi technology. So when you're shopping for a new Wi-Fi router, it's really important to make sure that it supports the Wi-Fi standard your devices or future devices are enabled for. For example, if you have a phone that supports Wi-Fi 6 or 7, you'll want to get a router that also supports those standards so you can take advantage of faster speeds and better performance. Making sure that your devices’ technology is compatible with your router technology will help you utilize the fastest Wi-Fi speeds available and avoid lag times.


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Want to know how fast your devices can go? 

Wi-Fi speeds depend on the technology your devices are able to support. To make things easier, we’ve put together a list of common phones, laptops and gaming consoles along with their Wi-Fi capabilities. Use this chart to check which Wi-Fi technology your devices are built with so you can make the most out of them. Check out the comprehensive list here.


Posted By Sydney Lauer, Product Strategy Analyst





Google Fiber’s fastest year ever — to the home, in the home, and everywhere in between

8 Gig Now Available in Utah, North Carolina’s Triangle region, and Austin, Texas


At Google Fiber, delivering a fast, reliable internet experience has always been at the core of what we do, and that’s never been more important. Whether you’re working from home or playing a multi-player game or using it to connect multiple devices in the home, speed matters.  That is why GFiber spent 2023 focused on delivering speed to the home and in the home.  We made investments in our network, in the equipment we offer customers, in enhanced quality standards for our technicians, and much more.  


Some of these efforts have been very public — like our GFiber Labs 20 Gig + Wi-Fi7 project or our efforts to make faster speed plans available to our customers. In early 2023, we began rolling out 5 Gig and 8 Gig internet offerings as we updated our network in each city to XGS-PON. When we said that a product was available in a city, we wanted to make sure it was available to everyone in our service area there. As of today, more than 75% of our residential customers can get 5 Gig and/or 8 Gig.  


The response from our customers has been amazing and we’re very proud at the speed at which we’re making these network-wide upgrades. In fact, starting today customers across Utah (Salt Lake City & Provo), Austin, TX, and the Triangle region in North Carolina can sign up for 8 Gig service. Our 8 Gig product offers symmetrical upload and download speeds of up to 8000 Mbps with a wired connection, a router (or you can use your own), up to two mesh extenders and professional installation, for $150/month. This speed can make internet connection feel almost instantaneous.


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This is just one part of a focused effort to maximize speed across our network so customers can get the most out of their internet. GFiber is actively upgrading our fiber network, expanding our partnerships with content companies to offer seamless connectivity and low latency experiences, and adding redundancy so customers can stream, game, or video conference with confidence. In fact, most of our customers see even higher speeds than expected, especially over wired connections (see speed tests above). 


While speed to the home is important, most of us use Wi-Fi for the majority of our online activities. We’re working to ensure your Wi-Fi keeps up.  We are upgrading customers from the original Google Fiber Network Box to Wi-Fi 6 at no cost, helping customers optimize their network set up for their households, and deploying Wi-Fi 6E with tri-band connectivity built to handle more devices with fewer slowdowns.  We provided our technicians with new tools and training to optimize the in-home setup.  And because we understand that Wi-Fi = Internet for most people, we are helping our customers understand how the devices they use like their smartphones or computers can influence their experience.


As our dependence on the internet continues to grow, we’re working to make sure we’re keeping up with customer needs, not just for today, but in the future. 2023 was our fastest year ever. . .until 2024. We’ll continue to push boundaries to make speed a reality for our customers at every part of the internet ecosystem. And we invite others to join us.  


Posted by Liz Hsu, Senior Director, Product & Billing




Your most exciting invitation this holiday season — 20 Gig + Wi-Fi 7 for $250 a month

We told you 20 Gig + Wi-Fi 7 was coming. We showed you what it can do (multiple simultaneous multi-gig streams!). Now we’re ready to make it official — 20 Gig + Wi-Fi 7 will be available to select customers for $250 per month plus applicable taxes and fees. 

At our core, we believe speed should always be accessible — that’s why we haven’t raised our 1 Gig from $70 ever and why we’ve priced 2 Gig ($100/month), 5 Gig ($125), and 8 Gig ($150) right along those lines. And we feel the same way with 20 Gig + Wi-Fi 7. At $250, it’s a lot of speed for that price, and we know that it will enable innovators who want to be able to push what’s possible to truly get to work.

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We’re starting in Kansas City, North Carolina’s Triangle Region, Arizona, and Iowa. As we continue to roll out Nokia’s 25G PON across our network, we’ll open up invitations in new areas, so make sure you’ve let us know if you are interested in being the one of the first to have this in your home. We expect installations to start in Q1.

As we enter the new year, expect more news out of GFiber Labs — speed is the first step towards next generation internet. We’re working to redefine internet customer experience and to bring it to more people in more places, and GFiber Labs is focusing on how we go from incremental to exponential improvement when it comes to what your internet can do. 

Posted by Nick Saporito, Head of Product 




Wi-Fi Focus: Frequencies and How Your Devices Use Them

Most of you may know generally what Wi-Fi is and how it works (if you don’t, check out this blog post). But did you know there are different Wi-Fi frequencies that devices are able to use for faster wireless speeds?

What is Wi-Fi frequency?

Wi-Fi frequency is the radio wave frequency that Wi-Fi networks use to carry data between the internet and your device. There are three different Wi-Fi frequencies (also called bands) — each with their own benefits and tradeoffs.

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Which frequency is best for you?

Most of the time, you won’t even have to think about it because the majority of Wi-Fi routers will use the best frequency as long as the network name and password are the same across all frequencies. If you need the fastest possible speeds, you should use the 5 GHz or 6 GHz frequency. If you need the best possible range, you should use the 2.4 GHz frequency.

Knowing how frequency works is helpful when making sure your devices are getting the most out of the Wi-Fi technology it’s equipped with, whether that’s Wi-Fi 5, 6, 6E or soon — Wi-Fi 7. We’ve put together a chart you can use as a quick guideline when you need to know which frequencies each Wi-Fi technology supports and how fast they can go.


Posted by Ishan Patel, Product Manager


Wi-Fi Focus: How Does Wi-Fi Work?

Have you ever wondered how Wi-Fi makes it possible to connect to the internet without any wires at all? Wi-Fi is often an abstract concept, but we think it’s important that you understand what it is and exactly how it works — so you can make the most of your wireless connection.

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Let’s start with the basics: What is Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi is a wireless networking technology that uses radio waves to give you internet access. Through Wi-Fi, you can connect devices within a limited range like in your home, office or a coffee shop — all without a wired ethernet cord.

You can think of your Wi-Fi like a highway. Similar to a highway, Wi-Fi is made up of a network of roads that allow data to travel from one place to another. The wider and more lanes there are on a highway, the more traffic it can handle. Likewise, the more bandwidth your Wi-Fi has, the more traffic (or data packets) it can support. The amount of bandwidth your Wi-Fi can support will largely depend on which Wi-Fi technology your device is equipped with — like Wi-Fi 5, 6 or 6E.



What are data packets?

When you’re playing an online game or downloading files to your laptop, you are doing that through data packets. Data packets are small units of data transmitted over a network. You can think of them like vehicles on the internet highway.

These packets contain information such as text, images, videos and more. They move along the internet highway guided by specific addresses and routes (like your gaming console) to reach their destinations. In the same way larger trucks might travel more slowly on a highway, the bigger the data packet, the slower it might travel.

How does the Wi-Fi router come into play?

Your Wi-Fi router allows your devices to access the internet, and to send and receive data. It acts like an exit ramp on the internet highway, connecting your devices to the broader internet by using wireless signals. Your router makes sure the data packets from your devices know how to enter and exit the local network and connect to the right lanes on the highway.





Configuring your Wi-Fi router’s settings

Your router's settings allow you to control various aspects of your network. You can specify which devices have priority (like HOV lanes), set up firewalls (like roadblocks) and manage the overall flow of data (like controlling the speed limit).

You should keep in mind that Wi-Fi routers have a limited range — like how an onramp can only serve a certain area. The strength of the wireless signals gets weaker as you move farther away from the router.

Understanding slowdowns over Wi-Fi

Lastly, we’ll go over why you might sometimes experience slower speeds than usual. In the same way a highway can experience traffic congestion, your Wi-Fi network may slow down when too many devices are using it at once. This is because the data packets (vehicles) have to share the available bandwidth (lanes), leading to slower speeds. To learn how you can maximize your Wi-Fi speeds, check out our other blog post.

Now that you’ve learned the ins and outs of Wi-Fi and how it gets your devices online, we hope you’re able to use this knowledge to drive safely and have a smooth commute on the internet superhighway.

Posted By Ishan Patel, Product Manager

How to make your home network more secure and less scary


October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month- a month dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of cybersecurity. Because nothing is scarier than having your Wi-Fi hacked, we've updated this classic blog to help you keep your network safer everyday. No need to feel any deja boo, keeping your Wi-Fi security up-to-date can help keep internet boogeymen at bay.


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Most of us use Wi-Fi networks to connect to the Internet. It’s so easy to get online over Wi-Fi that  it can be easy to overlook Wi-Fi security, and that can cause some problems from the minorly scary (think Haunted Mansion) to majorly terrifying (Shining-level).


Why do we care?


In almost every security presentation or document, there is a “scare the user” section … and this is that section. Here we’ll list all the horrible things that can happen if you don’t secure your Wi-Fi network. They’re listed from just annoying to horrifying.


 1. Piggybacking:

Simply put, someone else can use your home Wi-Fi to access the internet. In most cases, this will merely increase the use of your network bandwidth (which, if  you are using a network provider other than GFiber, may also impact your bill). But if they use your network connection to perform illegal activities, it can make your life very difficult. The last thing anyone wants is a knock on the door from the police due to illegal activity traced to your house. Or more likely receiving a copyright violation notice from your ISP or possibly having your service terminated for copyright infringement.


2. Network capture/sniffing:

Looking at what someone else is doing on a computer network requires two things: access to that network and the ability to decode the traffic once you have that access. With Wi-Fi, access is easy … no physical connection is required, just someone close enough to access the radio signal (and with modern antennas, that can be surprisingly far away — up to a mile). As for decoding what you are up to online, while most internet traffic is encrypted by the application (thank you TLS, not everything is protected … and you’d be surprised how much metadata about someone’s activities you can get from the unencrypted traffic. You can potentially tell what websites someone is visiting, even if you can’t see the web traffic itself.


3. Abusing network services:

Many people have network attached printers, file servers, cameras, home security systems, and other smart home devices. Most of these devices try very hard to make using them easy and intuitive … the last thing manufacturers want is to annoy their customers with too many steps. But the same features that make it easy for you to use may make it easy for an attacker to use as well. This can range from printing garbage to stealing data from your file servers to watching people via the camera and even unlocking your front door.


But there are ways to prevent all these problems. Below you’ll find ways to make your home network more secure. We’ve listed them from easy to hard, from most important to least important. At a high level, everyone should do steps 1 & 2, and should think about step 3. If you’re especially tech savvy, then step 4 is a good step to take, although it can make troubleshooting access issues a bit more difficult. Finally, step 5 isn’t a technical step, but is standard maintenance that everyone should consider.


 

 Step 1: Encryption


The first step, and one that is more and more common by default on Wi-Fi devices, is to enable encryption. There are several Wi-Fi encryption standards, with different levels of rigor and difficulty to break. Starting with WEP, then came WPA, WPA2, and WPA3. As these levels have evolved, they’ve gotten harder and harder to crack, using the latest in cryptographic standards.


Setting up Wi-Fi encryption is a fairly straightforward task. For Google Fiber devices, the online support pages walk you through enabling WPA3 encryption on the network box (and here’s how to do it on Google WiFi). Other manufacturers will have other processes to enable Wi-Fi encryption, and if it isn’t done by default, it should be the first step you take when setting up your home network (search online if instructions are not included in the box).



Step 2: Obfuscation

Almost every Wi-Fi access point that ships today comes with a default SSID and default login credentials (aka admin password). This is handy and helpful for launching the device, but these defaults are often easily determined, printed on the side of the device, or both. As such, changing them to something you know that’s hard for others to guess is a great way to prevent someone easily figuring out the credentials and taking over your Wi-Fi device.


The same page that shows how to set up encryption on the Google Fiber network box also walks through changing the SSID and password (check here for how to do this on Google WiFi).


 

Step 3: Separation

Do you have smart home devices at home? Does half your house chirp if you say “Hey Google” or “Alexa”? Maybe an Android TV device for watching YouTube TV on your main set? If so, often these devices don’t need to be on the same network as your home computers, phones, tablets, and other computer devices.


Many newer Wi-Fi routers allow you to set up multiple SSIDs, sometimes also referred to as setting up a guest network in addition to your main one. In this way, you can separate your smart home devices from your main household network, isolating devices that don’t need to talk to the printer or file servers or the like off into their own space. With the explosion of devices that simply connect to the internet, there is no reason to allow them to access other local devices.



Step 4: Authorization


Most Wi-Fi routers have the ability to lock down an SSID so that only devices with approved MAC addresses can use them. At a high level, a MAC address is a unique* identifier that every network device has for identifying it on the local network. While the IP address assigned to that device may change, the MAC will stay the same*.


Given this, if you know the MAC addresses of the devices in your house, you can lock your Wi-Fi so that ONLY those devices can access the network. So even if an attacker was able to get the SSID and encryption information, they still couldn’t access the network as their device wouldn’t be on the approved list.






Step 5: Rotation/Validation

So at this point, you’ve set up your home router: It is encrypted, with a personalized SSID, and has new admin credentials. You may also have set up multiple networks to separate devices that don’t need to talk to each other. Perhaps you’ve even gone to the effort of locking devices by MAC address. You’ve done the key technical steps, and now it’s time to think about maintenance. 


Just like you change the oil in your car, the filters in your furnace/AC, or the batteries in your smoke detectors, so you also need to update and change the settings of your Wi-Fi every 6 months or so:


  • unchecked

    The first thing to do is check for updates. Similar to how the OS on your phone/computer/etc receives new versions, there will also be new versions of the firmware that runs your Wi-Fi router. Check to make sure you’re running the latest version — if you aren’t sure how to do this for your device, do an online search with your model name/number and “firmware update.”

  • unchecked

    Review your router logs. Check to make sure you know all the devices that are on your network. If you set up MAC address filtering, verify all those devices are still in use. If you threw something out, then make sure you’ve removed it from the approved address list.

  • unchecked

    Rotate the encryption key. This is going to be annoying, there is no way to get around that. Every device on that SSID will need to be updated with the new key. But if you did have someone who had figured out the key and was surreptitiously using your Wi-Fi, rotating the key will knock them off your network.

  • unchecked

    Change the admin credentials. Similar to underwear, passwords should not be shared and should be changed regularly.


Wi-Fi is here to stay and will remain the main way we’ll be getting online for the foreseeable future. By taking a little bit of time, you can make sure that there are no security surprises lurking on your home network.


Posted by Chris Roosenraad, Head of Security, Privacy, & Trust.


* Yes, MAC addresses can be changed, but that is rare, and highly unusual.