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How to Secure Your Wi-Fi Routers from Hackers

The Internet has already become an integral part of our lives. According to the statistics, 56.1% of the world's population has internet access and the number of equipment accessing the global network grows respectively. From personal computers to smart-home accessories, most of the devices use Wi-Fi connection for data exchange.

A router acts an intermediary between the Internet and all the computing devices on a LAN. Broadband routers are no just gateways, they also act as a security barrier which is supposed to save us against hacker attacks. However, incorrectly configured, a router can become insecure and vulnerable.

The American Consumer Institute analyzed random Wi-Fi routers and found that 83% of them (5 out of 6) have had vulnerabilities to potential cyber attacks.

Percentage of Routers with Open Source and Known Vulnerabilities by ACI’s ConsumerGram

Connected devices open to cyber attacks can compromise user’s privacy and lead to the loss of sensitive data.

Let’s dig deeper into the main reasons for cyber attacks and explore some simple steps to improve the security of Wi-Fi routers and keep your network safe.

Main applications of compromised routers

Malware targeted specifically at routers increased throughout the last year. However. what are the main reasons behind such cyber attacks?

1. Wi-Fi hijacking

Wi-Fi hijacking is aimed at gaining control of your router and changing the legitimate DNS server to the malicious one. As a result, a user is redirected to a spoofed page. After entering login credentials, a victim provides attackers with access to personal or financial information.

2. Malicious botnets

Hackers can directly attack your routers and turn them into a single botnet that is used to send spam, hack other routers or run DDoS attacks. Distributed Denial of Service attacks (DDoS) are mainly focused on shutting down websites or entire networks through redirecting traffic from a large number of infected computers connected into a single botnet and making these sites unavailable to users.

3. Cryptojacking

With the advent of cryptocurrencies, the new ways of hacking appeared. Cryptojacking is one of them. This type of crime means using somebody else’s computer to illicitly mine cryptocurrency without any permission. The main issue is that victims may not even notice that the attack is occurring and criminals secretly harness their computing power.

4. Traffic monitoring tools

Attackers often compromise broadband routers and use them as a traffic monitoring tool and get access to all the encrypted data that travels through the hacked device.

5. Replaced proxy

Sometimes, criminals hack routers to get access to your proxy address which can be used later to make some illegal operations. The address will be visible is not that of the criminal, but that of a compromised router.

Why routers are an easy target?

One of the reasons why routers are so frequently hacked is that they are easier to compromise than any other devices. While manufacturers of computers, mobile devices, and even software development companies are becoming more and more focused on the security of their products, routers are still vulnerable to attacks.

Zero-day vulnerabilities are one more common reason which is unpredictable and unexpected. Attacks come from hackers who have discovered or otherwise learned about a hole in the system and quietly exploit it.

However, the main and the most common issue with routers security is a lack of user awareness. Most people don’t think about protecting our routers as we do with our financial account or other devices. We set up the router once and forget about it until the problem occurs don’t even bother to change the default router password.

How to keep your router safe?

Having a gap in the knowledge of how to properly configure a router, and many of us just ignore basic precautions which could improve security.

According to Broadband Genie, many broadband users have apparently never touched their router's security settings

Let’s see a few general tips users can do to keep your home wireless connection secure and not become a victim of data theft.

Choose a safe position for your router. Try not to place it near the window to minimize wireless signal outside your house.

Change the default administrator login and password. The default credentials are often the same for all models. If you want to avoid unwanted penetration, change it to a strong and unique password.

Disable remote administration. Wi-Fi routers contain a remote management feature that enables admin access from outside the home. This functionality poses a threat and can be used by hackers. If you don’t want to get hacked, you’d better disable it and use VPN access instead.

Make your Wi-Fi network secure. Along with updating an admin password, Wi-Fi settings require setup as well. To avoid your broadband connection become accessible by anyone, change a Wi-Fi password to something secure. We recommend using at least 12 characters with a mix of characters(upper-case and lower-case, numbers, and symbols).

Switch to ‘WPA2’ encryption. If you see in default settings that your Wi-Fi connection uses the 'WPA' or 'WEP', change it to ‘WPA2’ encryption immediately to avoid using outdated and insecure methods.

Disable WPS. Although Wi-Fi Protected Setup is a handy feature enabling quick connection to Wi-Fi by pressing a button or entering a PIN, it is still an insecure standard that can lead to stealing Wi-Fi passwords. For this reason, it is advised to disable the feature to mitigate the risk of a remote hack.

Check attached devices. Modern routers are able to provide a list of devices connected to the network. You can easily check it and see if any unknown device is using your network.

Log out from the router’s administration page. Don’t forget to log out properly after you finish managing the router, avoiding session hijacking.

Keep your router firmware updated. As any operating system, your router’s firmware needs to be up to date to improve device security. Manufacturers deploy new versions to eliminate security holes and add features. You’d better install the latest version as soon as possible to make sure your system has the maximum protection level.

Always remember that your Wi-Fi router is a gateway between your personal devices and the other world. If you neglect its security, don’t be surprised if your personal data and home network are hacked. Take a few minutes of your time to configure privacy settings of your router to keep it as safe and secure as possible.

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