You’re sitting at home, surfing the internet, without a care in the world. Your computer and all the sites you visit are protected with good passwords, thanks to Sticky Password. Your firewall is turned on. Your antivirus is running and up to date. You feel protected from all the nasty threats out there in cyberspace, but are you really as safe as you feel?
If you’re like most people, there’s probably one computer in your home that’s not secure, and this computer is the gateway to all the others… it’s your router.
Over the years, home computers have become well protected, because consumers understand that they need good passwords, anti-virus software, and firewalls to protect themselves.
However, with the advent of wireless technology and the proliferation of portable devices, hackers have now turned their attention to your router–the one computer in your home that is rarely protected and that is often vulnerable.
Your router is a networking device that sits between your modem, which connects to your ISP (internet service provider), and your home network. Often, you receive your router from your ISP. Sometimes, your router and your modem are combined in a single machine.
As a computer, your router has its own built-in software, known as firmware. This software is rarely updated, which leaves you vulnerable to threats from hackers. In contrast, the software running on your computers and portable devices is updated frequently to protect you.
There are other reasons that routers are particularly vulnerable:
- Users often do not configure their routers properly. Many do not change the default passwords or settings. This problem is often compounded by a difficult-to-use interface and poor user documentation.
- Many ISPs distribute the same routers to thousands of their customers, which makes them a much more inviting target to hackers. If they can break into one router, they can break into them all.
Hackers attack routers to gain access to computers on your network, steal your information, send SPAM, and even create bots that they use to attack websites.
In the past few years, there have been many attacks around the world against routers, which often leave their victims with identity theft, loss of privacy, and damaged computers. But when routers are attacked, it’s not only the router owners who lose.
For example, on Christmas Day 2014, the Lizard Squad hackers used compromised routers to launch a Denial-of-Service attack against PlayStation Network and XBox Live. As a result, millions of people could not play online or update their consoles.
This attack demonstrated that unsecured routers jeopardize the safety of the entire internet. On Safer Internet Day, let’s resolve to keep us all safer by securing our routers. Here’s how:
- Always change the admin password on your router to a good password. Don’t leave your router with the default password, as that’s how hackers break in.
- Ensure that your router’s firmware is up to date.
- Use good Wi-Fi security. This means turning on WPA2 and turning off WPS.
We developed RouterCheck, a free and user-friendly Android app that checks these settings and many others for you. RouterCheck determines whether your router is vulnerable to hackers, and it provides instructions on how to resolve the problems it finds.
Because securing your router keeps the entire internet safer.
About the author
Jennifer Paton Smith is a freelance technical writer. Her personal technical-writing website is sericonconsulting.com. She is co-founder of Sericon Technology Inc., which develops RouterCheck.