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 not 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) 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

The number of malware targeting routers specifically increased throughout the last year. 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 on a fake website, 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. Traffic monitoring tools

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

4. Setting up malicious proxy servers

Sometimes, cyber criminals can hack your router to setup a proxy node on it and then use it to perform illegal operations. This technique helps to hide a real IP address of the attacker pointing to your compromised router instead.

Why routers are an easy target?

Routers are easier to hack 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.

One of the reasons why routers become compromised is zero-day attacks, which are pretty common in the IoT world. Such attacks come from hackers who have discovered or otherwise learned about a vulnerability in the system and quietly exploit it.

However, the main and the most common issue with routers security is a lack of users’ awareness. Most people don’t think twice about protecting their routers as they do with financial accounts or other devices. We set up the router once and forget about it until the problem occurs, while not even bothering ourselves to change the default router password. So, what can we do about it?

How to keep your router safe?

Having a gap in the knowledge of how to properly configure a router, 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 use to keep their 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 a 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 within your private network perimeter, 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 symbols with a mix of characters (upper-case, lower-case, numbers, and special 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. This will help to avoid 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 issues and add features. It is a good practice to install the latest version as soon as possible to make sure your system has the maximum level of protection

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 when 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.