Knowing how to secure your WiFi router at home is critical for your device and network security. Your internet traffic and data are your ownership, and nobody should be able to eavesdrop without your permit. The blog shares some easy ways to secure your WiFi router at home.
Threats to unsecured home WiFi routers
There is a misconception that home WiFi routers are not prone to cyber threats. However, this is not true. With the significant increase in identity theft and ransomware attacks, cyber intruders are more interested in home routers. Your smart TVs, IP cameras, and other connected devices are a threat you might not have considered.
Let’s find out cyber intruders’ interest in you:
- Unauthorized access: Your shared files, sensitive information, private pictures, and voicemails can be accessed easily if not secured. Hackers are very fond of such confidential information for future cyber crimes.
- Data interception: Unsecured WiFi networks make it easier for attackers to intercept the data transmitted between your devices and the router. Your sensitive information, such as login credentials, personal emails, financial data, and more, can be compromised this way.
- Malware distribution: with unauthorized access, the hackers could employ and distribute malware to connected devices and use them for illicit purposes.
- Botnet participation: Your unsecured router could be vulnerable to being compromised and used as part of a botnet—a network of infected devices controlled by cybercriminals for malicious purposes.
- Denial of service (DoS) attacks: Attackers can flood your unsecured network with overwhelming traffic, causing it to slow down or crash, denying you access to the internet.
- Intrusion into connected devices: If an attacker gains access to your network, they might be able to exploit vulnerabilities in connected devices, such as smart home devices or computers, potentially taking control over them.
- Identity theft: Access to personal information can lead to theft, where attackers use your data to commit fraud or other criminal activities in your name.
- Ransomware attacks: Insecure networks may be susceptible to ransomware attacks, where attackers encrypt your data and demand a ransom for its release.
- Privacy breaches: Lack of security can lead to privacy breaches, exposing personal information that you intended to keep private.
“During the first quarter of 2023, more than six million data records were exposed worldwide through data breaches. Since the first quarter of 2020, the highest number of exposed data records was detected in the fourth quarter of 2020, nearly 125 million data sets.”
According to the National Council of Identity Theft Protection: Total fraud and identity theft cases have nearly tripled over the last decade.
10 easy ways to secure WiFi home routers
There are some ways you can put into effect to keep your home router safe:
1. Change the default administrator password
The first thing you should do after setting up your router is to change the default administrator password. Use a robust and unique password that includes uppercase, lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
2. Update firmware
Keep your router’s firmware up to date. Router manufacturers release updates to address vulnerabilities and improve performance. Check your router manufacturer’s website regularly for firmware updates and install them promptly.
3. Use strong encryption
Having a safe, reliable encryption method is the key to being secure. Ensure your WiFi network uses strong encryption, such as WPA2 (WiFi Protected Access 2) or WPA3. Avoid using outdated and weak encryption methods like WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy). Using a VPN can also ensure that travel data is encrypted, maintaining your anonymity while staying online.
4. Network name (SSID)
People sometimes keep the network names simple and easily identifiable. Change your WiFi network’s default network name (SSID) to something unique and not readily identifiable to your home or location. Avoid using personal information in the SSID.
5. Disable SSID broadcasting
Choosing to hide your WiFi network’s SSID to make it less visible to unwanted people is one of the ways too. While this doesn’t provide strong security, it adds an extra layer of obscurity.
6. Use a strong WiFi password
You might need to learn the importance of keeping unique passwords, but let me tell you they are the best way to be secure. A strong password that is difficult to guess is the first line of defense against all kinds of online threats.
7. Firewall protection
Firewalls are amazing. They are there for a reason. They must be enabled for an edge in security.
8. Disable remote management
Unless you specifically need it, disable remote management of your router to prevent unauthorized access from outside your home network.
9. MAC address filtering
Consider enabling MAC address filtering, which allows only specific devices to connect to your WiFi network based on their unique MAC addresses. However, remember that MAC addresses can be spoofed, which should be used with other security measures.
10. Regularly review connected devices
Periodically check the list of devices connected to your network. If you notice any unfamiliar devices, investigate and take appropriate action. Also, keep your router in a physically safe place.
Real-life examples of home routers being compromised
Black Lotus Labs, a division of Lumen, recently uncovered a massive botnet that targets small-office/home-office routers. Unfortunately, they haven’t specified which routers are being affected. This campaign has been ongoing for several years, with compromised routers scattered globally.
The botnet operates using a Linux-based Remote Access Trojan called “AVrecon,” which has been undetected for over two years. The sneaky nature of the malware lies in its ability to avoid service disruptions or bandwidth loss, making it challenging for owners to notice the infection.
The purpose of this botnet appears
- to facilitate various criminal activities, ranging from password spraying to digital advertising fraud.
- The malware operates through port 48102, but whether it uses TCP or UDP is unclear.
The Mirai botnet targeted vulnerable IoT devices, including home routers. Exploiting weak or default passwords turned these devices into zombies to launch Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks on websites, causing widespread internet disruptions.
WiFi Pineapple (Hak5) or similar tools to hijack your home routers
The WiFi Pineapple is a hacking tool designed to demonstrate WiFi network vulnerabilities. When placed in an attacker’s proximity, it can trick devices into connecting to it, allowing for potential man-in-the-middle attacks and data interception. Although using WiFi Pineapple is legal for ethical purposes, hackers can also use it illegally.
Some similar tools include Raspberry Pi, Alfa Network Board, LAN Turtle, Lockpicks, and many more.
Concluding thought: Am I cyber secure?
Well, the answer to this is with you only. If you have followed the best security practices, you must not be too scared of cyber threats. In this digital age, nobody is truly secure. Instead, even with the best security measures, there’s still a loophole left behind, which hackers can access.
So, what must be done? Protect your identity, digital footprints, and your router’s tracking as the first line of defense.