WiFi Protection Is More Important Than Most Realize
Firewalls are part of your standard computer protection (if not, it should be so immediately). Your router is the device that your computer or other devices use to access the internet, and some of them come with built-in firewalls too. This is good because, as a form of WiFi protection, it is meant to block the dishonest or criminally-minded from gaining access to your PC.
The problem with ending your WiFi protection here though is that the firewall in the router does not prevent anyone within range of the WiFi signal from getting into the network proper. If you have not turned on the firewall installed in the router (and some are shipped with the firewall disabled) or you are not using proper encryption and other protective methods, your router could actually be easy to crack. Also, hackers now have widely available tools and tactics enabling them to actually monitor your WiFi traffic!
With the effectiveness of most routers making signals more powerful than ever (i.e. someone far at the end of the block could pick up your signal) and with so many unprotected wireless devices using your WiFi, it becomes more important than ever to focus on total WiFi protection of your home.
The Internet of Things as Window of Opportunity
Let’s take a deeper look at the need for more advanced WiFi protection than most recognize right now. While you may be using the list of FCC-advised methods that include turning on encryption and firewalls, changing default passwords and network names, disabling SSID broadcasting, and using the MAC filters, you should do more.
This is because the Internet of Things or IoT is growing exponentially each year, and we now have more internet and/or network connected, wireless devices in our homes than ever before. And it is here where the hackers target any gaps in WiFi protection.
If you are unaware of the IoT, it is more than just one area of technology. It is the world of devices that access the internet or network to send or receive data, use apps or software, and more. For some of us, the IoT is all about home automation or security, for others, it is about interconnectivity between our home office, workplace, and mobile devices. It is many different things to many different people — but the connecting thread is the internet, and to gain access to that requires the WiFi network.
Let’s say that your network traffic can be monitored due to inadequate WiFi protection. This will allow a hacker to see everything from your iPod or your laptop to the baby monitor, fitness watch, and thermostat or lighting fixtures throughout your home that relies on smart technologies. These are devices that are meant to make your life easier, more efficient, greener and even more cost effective. Yet, none of them have the kind of security needed to keep them from opening a door into the network. In fact, many hackers use these devices to slip into the network undetected.
While you can use firewalls on a PC or mobile device, there are no real defense methods for the many IoT devices. Here, we see a huge issue with poor WiFi protection. A recent report from Princeton University indicated that:
“Certain devices used some encryption but an unsecured Wi-Fi signal could still reveal a user’s activity on those gadgets.”
What this means is that anyone monitoring this data might see when power is turned on or off on a device, when changes are made to settings, and other data that can easily reveal someone’s typical patterns. The range of potential security threats this poses is quite substantial, ranging from knowing when homeowners leave their premises to when a network is most vulnerable to heavy, but unauthorized usage.
Having basic WiFi protection protocols cannot yet address this one huge gap in security for the IoT devices, and yet there are some solutions.
Gateways Are the Key
When you want to secure something, you might say you wish to be “doubly sure” about this or that area of security. This is the logic behind gateway devices only now appearing. Some are not capable of adapting to your WiFi protection needs or the activity within your WiFi ecosystem, but there are some devices already using machine learning to create optimal protection. The CUJO, for example, is capable of interacting with all IoT devices, learning how they interact with the overall ecosystem. When a new or unexpected pattern emerges, the device recognizes it as a threat and can effectively block it.
For instance, your WiFi protection may include a firewall on the router and firewalls on the computers in the home, but you may have a wireless baby monitor using the router too. If your router has even one vulnerability, that monitor can suddenly become a gateway for hackers. With a gateway device in place, like CUJO, the incoming traffic would be seen as absolutely out of character, and effectively blocked.
These vulnerabilities are being addressed by IoT experts and device makers, but their progress is slow. Router manufacturers have also yet to get up to speed, and most experts tell consumers to forgo the stock devices and to invest in a commercial grade router if they want to have the most control and protection.
Until devices are created with their own firewalls, and with firmware that can automatically update to address any security issues, it is your responsibility to find the vulnerabilities in your home WiFi. This is a difficult process, and especially if you have several wireless devices on your network.
When a problem exists, it is referred to as an attack surface, and hackers have an astonishing number of them available. In fact, they have more than the average computer or device user will ever know or understand. LAN data storage, mobile applications, web interfaces for each device, firmware updating mechanisms, device memory, and so many other factors can be exploited.
The protection of your WiFi is in your hands, but with gateway devices, it can be much more assured than ever before.