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A network is a group of two or more devices that communicate with each other via a connection. Consider how your devices are connected.

What is a network?

A network is a group of two or more devices that communicate with each other via a connection.

These devices could be desktop computers, laptops, mobile phones, tablets, or other digital appliances connected (wired or wirelessly) to other devices within a network.

Consider how your devices are connected. Connections can vary and could include:

  • Physical (wired) cables such as Ethernet, USB-C and HDMI.
  • Wireless signals such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Cellular data such as LTE/4G/5G.

Internal and external networks

An internal network has a defined set of users. Like your home or business, only certain family members, trusted friends or colleagues access inside your home with a spare key or information related to your business using a work ID. The spare key and work ID are similar to passphrases and multi-factor authentication, they act as the front door to unwanted access.

As part of your home or business network you could have many connected devices or accessories including; routers, keyboards, mice, printers, external storage devices, smart-home devices or wearable devices. Often you know and trust these devices.

An external network is open to all users and is usually managed by someone else (not you as the home user or business owner). Similar to using public transport, visiting your favourite coffee shop or the supermarket you do so at your own risk, you do not necessarily know and therefore trust everyone in that public space.

Why do people connect to a network?

To access the worldwide web (the internet).

While this may be the main reason which lets you connect with friends, families, and customers, the internet also allows you to use services to share files between devices (i.e. using the cloud to store and share photos), buy and sell goods, enjoy entertainment, and so much more. The more things you do on the internet, the greater your digital presence. The greater your digital presence, the more likely you are to fall victim to a cyber incident. This is like holding a masquerade party and leaving the doors open to let invited guests in for a masquerade party. If left open, how do you stop uninvited guests from entering your home? What if multiple doors to your home are left open? How can you be sure that all doors really are closed? How can you tell if someone at your party is invited or not?

Why do people disconnect from a network?

If you are experiencing a cyber incident such as ransomware (a variant of malicious software), disconnecting a device from the internet and other devices disrupts communication which can assist in limiting the distribution and harm of malicious software.

What to consider when connecting to a network after a cyber security incident

  1. Be sure that you have removed the malware. 
    Use an antivirus program or contact a professional for assistance to remove any malware from your device. For severe cases, you may have to perform a factory reset.
  2. Turn on two-factor authentication.
  3. Manage user accounts.
  4. Implement strong passphrases.
  5. Connect one device at a time when reconnecting to a network.
    This is a cautionary, additional layer of defence, limiting any potential harm by malicious software that may have been missed in the removal process. Use this guidance on how to connect to a network.
  6. Update your device.
  7. Monitor activity on your devices once you’ve reconnected.
    Monitor your devices for any unusual activity or performance issues, which may indicate there is still malware on the device. You could use Task Manager on Windows or Activity Monitor on macOS to look for resource-intensive programs.

How to connect or disconnect a device

You can connect or disconnect from a network by:

  • Inserting or removing the physical (wired) cables or accessories.
  • Enabling or disabling connectivity through the settings on your device.

Connecting and disconnecting from a network with a physical cable

One of the easiest and most reliable ways to connect or disconnect a device from a network is to unplug the physical cables from your device. Three common connection types are Ethernet, HDMI and USB-C.

Note: For Apple products, in addition to the above, connection types may include Mini DisplayPort, Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 3. For more information visit support.apple.com. 

In the below example an Ethernet cable is used to demonstrate how to connect and disconnect a physical cable.

  1. The Ethernet port, where the cable connects to, is likely to be; at the back of your desktop computer; on the side or back of your laptop; or the back of your router. If you cannot find an Ethernet port or cable check if it is connected to an accessory such as a docking station or USB Hub.  If you still cannot find a cable on your desktop or laptop, your device may be using a wireless connection.
     
  2. To disconnect, press down on the locking tab located on the bottom of cable and pull the plug towards you. Repeat this step until you have disconnected all devices. To connect, press down on the locking tab located on the bottom of the cable and push into the Ethernet port.

Be aware, you could be connected in more than one way

Connecting or disconnecting physical cables is a good first step in either sharing (if you are connecting to a network) or isolating (if you are disconnecting from a network) devices within an internal network. Although, it is not the only way.

The next few steps of this guide, will explain how to connect and disconnect your device using settings for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and accessories (e.g. external storage devices or printers).

If you are connected via a physical cable and have removed it, you may still need to disconnect your device from Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or other accessories.

Connecting and disconnecting from a network on Windows 10

Wired connection (using settings)

If you are unable to unplug the physical cable or there is no cable, you can disconnect from the desktop. Check the bottom right corner, for the network icon to see if you are connected to a network. 

  1. Click on the Start menu by clicking the Windows logo key in the bottom left corner of the desktop.
     
    Click on the Start menu by clicking the Windows logo key in the bottom left corner of the desktop.

  2. Click on the Settings Cog icon.
     
    Click on the Settings Cog icon.

  3. From the Windows Settings window, click on Network & internet.
     
    From the Windows Settings window, click on Network & internet.

  4. From the Network and internet menu on the left, click on Status. 
     
    From the Network and internet menu on the left, click on Status.

  5. Under Change your network settings, click on Change adapter options.
     
    Under Change your network settings, click on Change adapter options.

  6. Click on the network you want to disconnect from, then click on Disable this network device. Repeat this step until you have disconnected from all networks.

    Note: If you are logged in with a user account, you may be prompted to enter your credentials.
     

    Click on the network you want to disconnect from, then click on Disable this network device. Repeat this step until you have disconnected from all networks.

  7. To connect, click on the network you want to connect to, then click Enable the network device.
     
    To connect, click on the network you want to connect to, then click Enable the network device.

Wireless connection (Wi-Fi)

Check the bottom right corner, for the network icon to see if you are connected to a Wi-Fi network. Note: Some devices have a physical switch. If you do, turn off your Wi-Fi using the switch. If you are unsure if this includes your device, seek guidance from the manufacturer of the device.

  1. Click on the Wi-Fi icon, in the bottom right corner.
     
    Click on the Wi-Fi icon, in the bottom right corner.

  2. To disconnect, see if the Wi-Fi button on the bottom of the Network and Internet Settings menu is highlighted. If highlighted, you are connected to a Wi-Fi signal. To disconnect, click on this Wi-Fi button.
     
    To disconnect, see if the Wi-Fi button on the bottom of the Network and Internet Settings menu is highlighted. If highlighted, you are connected to a Wi-Fi signal. To disconnect, click on this Wi-Fi button.

  3. From the Turn Wi-Fi back on drop down menu, click on Manually. If the Wi-Fi button is greyed-out, you are disconnected.
    To connect, click on Wi-Fi at the bottom of the Network and Internet Settings menu. Your device will automatically attempt to connect to the most recently used Wi-Fi network.
    If your device is unable to connect automatically, select the Wi-Fi network you wish to connect to.
    If asked to “Enter the network security key”, put in the Wi-Fi password.
     
    From the Turn Wi-Fi back on drop down menu, click on Manually.

Wireless connection (Bluetooth)

  1. Navigate to the Start menu by clicking the Windows logo key in the bottom left corner of the desktop.
     
    Navigate to the Start menu by clicking the Windows logo key in the bottom left corner of the desktop.

  2. Click on the Settings Cog icon.
     
    Click on the Settings Cog icon.

  3. Click on Devices.
    Click on Devices.

  4. Click on Bluetooth & other devices in the menu on the left.
    Click on Bluetooth & other devices in the menu on the left.

  5. Slide the Bluetooth toggle to Off. To connect slide the toggle to On.
     
    Slide the Bluetooth toggle to Off. To connect slide the toggle to On

External storage device

  1. Click on the Start menu by clicking the Windows logo key in the bottom left corner of the desktop.
     
    Click on the Start menu by clicking the Windows logo key in the bottom left corner of the desktop.

  2. Click on the Settings Cog icon.
     
    Click on the Settings Cog icon.

  3. From the Windows Settings window, click on Devices.
     
    From the Windows Settings window, click on Devices.

  4. Click on the device you want to disconnect, e.g. printers or scanners or USB. In this instance, we will be removing a USB device.
    Click on the device you want to disconnect, e.g. printers or scanners or USB. In this instance, we will be removing a USB device.

  5. Click on Remove device, then select Yes, to disconnect the external storage device.
    Click on Remove device, then select Yes, to disconnect the external storage device.

Connecting and disconnecting from a network on macOS

Wired connection (using settings)

  1. Click on Finder in the Dock.
     
    Click on Finder in the Dock.

  2. Click on Applications.
     
    Click on Applications

  3. Click on System Preferences.
     
    Click on System Preferences.

  4. Click on Network.
     
    Click on Network.

  5. To disconnect, select the active Ethernet adapter you are connected to. To connect, select the inactive Ethernet adapter you want to connect to.
     
    To disconnect, select the active Ethernet adapter you are connected to. To connect, select the inactive Ethernet adapter you want to connect to.

  6. Click on the Settings Cog icon on the bottom left. Note: you may have to click on the lock in the bottom left corner and enter your credentials to make changes.
     
    Click on the Settings Cog icon on the bottom left.

  7. To disconnect from the adapter, click on Make Service Inactive. To connect to the adapter, click Make Service Active.
     
    o disconnect from the adapter, click on Make Service Inactive. To connect to the adapter, click Make Service Active.

Wireless connection (Wi-Fi)

  1. Navigate to the Apple menu by clicking on the Apple icon in the top left corner.
     
    Navigate to the Apple menu by clicking on the Apple icon in the top left corner.

  2. Click on System Preferences.
     
    Click on System Preferences

  3. From the System Preferences window, click on the Network icon.
     
    From the System Preferences window, click on the Network icon

  4. From the Network Window select the Wi-Fi network you want to disconnect from.
     
    From the Network Window select the Wi-Fi network you want to disconnect from

  5. To disconnect from a connected Wi-Fi signal, Click on Turn Wi-Fi Off. To reconnect to a Wi-Fi signal, click on Turn Wi-Fi On.
     
    To disconnect from a connected Wi-Fi signal, Click on Turn Wi-Fi Off. To reconnect to a Wi-Fi signal, click on Turn Wi-Fi On

Wireless connection (Bluetooth)

  1. Navigate to the Apple menu by clicking on the Apple icon in the top left corner.
     
    Navigate to the Apple menu by clicking on the Apple icon in the top left corner.

  2. Click on System Preferences.
     
    Click on System Preferences.

  3. From the System Preferences window, click on Bluetooth.
     
    From the System Preferences window, click on Bluetooth

  4. To disconnect a Bluetooth connected device, click on Turn Bluetooth Off from the Bluetooth window. To connect to a Bluetooth device, click on Turn Bluetooth On from the Bluetooth window.  
    To disconnect a Bluetooth connected device, click on Turn Bluetooth Off from the Bluetooth window. To connect to a Bluetooth device, click on Turn Bluetooth On from the Bluetooth window.

External storage device

  1. Click on Finder in the Dock.
     
    Click on Finder in the Dock

  2. Under the Locations list on the left, click on the device you want to disconnect.
     
    Under the Locations list on the left, click on the device you want to disconnect.

  3. Select the eject icon, then disconnect the external storage device.  
    Select the eject icon, then disconnect the external storage device.