User-End Prevention of Router Hacking

Router hacking is an emerging threat to millions of people around the world. It is the result of a few issues, including vulnerabilities in routers’ basic design and the difficulties for a non-technical user seeking to secure them. The need to change settings on your router, update firmware on a regular basis, and overcome the security flaws in the way that routers work, make them a huge problem. Hackers are not unaware of this, and as computers have improved, and more devices are run through routers, router hacking has increased substantially.

We know that our computers and laptops have operating systems that have evolved over the years. Designed to address function, need and security, the standard OS has measurably advanced within the last decade. All kinds of improvements have been made to coding and protocols, and most of our operating systems are also updated on a regular basis to address any security flaws. This makes computers fairly secure, and when good anti-virus and anti-malware software is in place, along with a firewall, that computer can be quite safe.

That brings us back to the embedded devices such as routers, web cams, and the whole array of IoT (Internet of Things) devices. These stand as a rich target for the world’s hackers, and in the past few years, enormous attacks have made headlines because of their vulnerabilities:

  • The Polish Computer Emergency Response Team discovered that thousands of home routers had been hijacked in an attempted banking fraud
  • The SANS ISC recognized that Linksys E-Series routers were infected with a worm
  • Team Cymru found that more than 300k home and small business wireless routers were part of a global attack and definitely compromised
  • Thousands of Asus routers exposed the contents of their owners’ hard drives to specific websites
  • Bitcoin mining malware was used on compromised, embedded DVR drives
  • Millions of home routers suffered DDoS amplification abuse through DNS services

These are but a few of the router hacking issues that made headlines, and it has become more than clear that manufacturers must now take steps to update the architecture and security of these devices. Long touted as being a secure way to link your computer to the Internet, rather than a direct plug into the information superhighway, even experts are worrying that this approach is out of date.

Because software designers have long been aware of the need to keep abreast of the latest hacking developments, hackers are finding it more and more challenging to overcome improved code and security. Thus, the persistent increases in router hacking.

As one expert said:

Device manufacturers are far behind when it comes to secure programming…The vulnerabilities being found are often very basic issues straight out of the 1990’s like buffer overflows and OS command injection. We’ve even seen reports of blatantly obvious backdoor-like ‘features’. Many vendors are also unprepared to deal with security issues and don’t seem to have any real security program in place, either for the development process or for handling vulnerabilities reported to them…

While this may mean that a simple way to avoid router hacking is to avoid standard equipment provided through an ISP (Internet Service Provider), you must still assume some responsibility and learn the appropriate protocols, settings, behaviors and methods to use.

User-End Prevention of Router Hacking

Did you change the default settings on your router? For instance, when it arrived, did you change the username and password? If not, you are like millions who leave their devices open to potential attack. However, you may not know the other methods by which your router can be further secured and overcome many router hacking attempts.

For instance, are you broadcasting the SSID? Did you enable MAC filtering? What about using WPA2 wireless encryption? These are all steps that consumers are encouraged to take, but which may prove challenging to the non-technical.

Sadly, the risks of router hacking don’t end there because of the emergence of the IoT, and its seemingly unlimited array of devices. For example, you may have secured your router against hacking, even going as far as consulting with your ISPs techs, or a computer savvy friend, to ensure you have the right settings. You may even update the firmware of the router, enabling it to have the very latest security patches.

What about the fitness watch you use? What about that exciting array of home appliances that you have connected to a main control and which you can access through a phone app? What about the baby monitor? The Roku device? The wireless printers? These are all devices that fall under the heading of the IoT, and few of them are secure or designed to block router hacking. In fact, many of these items actually become the doorways through which the hacking occurs!

They communicate with your router, become part of the Wi-Fi network in the home, and because they are vulnerable, they are like another hidden back door into the network. From here, a knowledgeable hacker can achieve many insidious goals.

Is there are way to block this router hacking? You could attempt to update the firmware on all of the devices and monitor the activities on your network, but that would mean watching these things round the clock. Using apps can even create vulnerabilities as remote access is another way for hacking to occur.

A workable and available solution is a gateway device. This is something that can speak to your many embedded devices, learning how they behave and what sort of data they send in and out of the network via the router. The device would also understand if any of the embedded devices made unusual requests or was compromised via hacking. As a first line of defense between the Internet and the network, it would disable any hacking attempts from achieving goals, monitoring across a variety of pathways and seeking unusual behaviors.

Until software designers and hardware manufacturers have created hacking-proof options, you can take control using settings and gateway devices to secure your network.