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Why You Need a Guest Wi-Fi Network

Protect your info and devices by creating an alternative wireless connection for your guests


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Creating a separate wireless network in your home for guests to use might not be a bad idea.

By doing so, you don’t have to share your password with anyone and you don’t risk your guests having access to all devices connected to your network, such as your wireless printer, smart thermostat, Wi-Fi-enabled cameras and so on. And if you use the same password for other accounts — which isn’t recommended, but many still do — you’re potentially exposing yourself there, too, by giving out your password.

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Sure, you trust your friends and family. But it’s more a matter of security: A guest network reduces the odds of cybersecurity issues, such as an infection of malicious software, also known as malware, or a data breach.

Though your friends and family likely wouldn’t intentionally sabotage your network, they may not be aware that a device they’re connecting to your network contains some sort of malware.

Think of it this way. A guest network segregates your guests’ activity on the internet from your own. It’s fast, free and easy to set up. You can consult your internet service provider (ISP) and/or router manufacturer for specific instructions, but the overall process is the same.

Setting up a guest network

1. On your computer, open a web browser or search engine and type in your specific IP address, which may look something like 192.28.200.21. If you don’t know your IP address, you can find it on the back of your router.

Some new routers and ISPs support an app that lets you manage your Wi-Fi network as well as a guest network. Those that support a Wi-Fi management app include AT&T, CenturyLink, Verizon Fios and Xfinity. Setting up a guest network will often be listed under Settings or Option.

2. A page will open with information about your wireless internet connection, but you might have to sign in first as the network administrator.

3. Look for the guest network option. Enable guest Wi-Fi access if it’s disabled by default.

4. Create a guest Wi-Fi network name, sometimes called Service Set Identifier (SSID). If the name of your network is HomeSmartHome, maybe call your guest network HomeSmartHome-Guest.

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5. You can choose to have your guest network name visible to others. If not, you’ll have to provide your guests with login credentials each time.

6. Create a strong Wi-Fi password for your guest network just as you would for your personal network. Don’t use the same password as your primary Wi-Fi network or one you’ve used anywhere else. A strong password is at least 10 characters and a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.

7. Now you can share the guest Wi-Fi information with your guests. Some folks post it on a chalkboard in the kitchen, others print out decorative cards for guests as part of a welcome package in the guest room. Be creative. Some tech-savvy folks create QR codes to make it easy for guests to join.

Securing your guest network

Although a guest network keeps potentially unsecured devices from accessing your private network, you can take a few extra steps to ensure it stays secure.

  • Keep your router and all devices on the guest network updated and “patched” with the latest versions of software and firmware. This will head off any security vulnerabilities while reducing the risk of spreading malicious software. Be sure to have cybersecurity software installed as well.
  • Even though you created a guest network, it’s still tied to your internet service, so expect slower connections based on the number of guests using it. That said, having a dual band router with frequency bands — usually 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) and 5 GHz with newer Wi-Fi 6 routers having 6 GHz — and allocating devices to one band or another can give you greater overall performance. Look for band options when setting up your Wi-Fi network in steps 4 and 5 above.
  • Keep in mind that your guests’ devices will immediately join your Wi-Fi network when they return. It’s up to you if you want to change it.
  • And don’t confuse the guest network with your own primary one when connecting new devices to your home Wi-Fi network. Otherwise, you won’t be able to control it using an app on your smartphone or your voice with a smart speaker.

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