Home routers have become a major target for hackers. As more companies embrace work-from-home structures, most of them lose the ability to scrutinize staff internet connectivity devices such as routers comprehensively.
This is because they operate beyond secure enterprise security protocols that are usually reinforced within company networks. As such, routers are becoming the new favored attack vector. So how do cybercriminals attack your router? How do you know if your router has been hacked? And can you beef up your internet’s security?
How Do Cybercriminals Hack Routers?
Here are some of the ways through which hackers hijack home routers.
1. Leveraging Firmware Vulnerabilities
Hackers can easily apply unauthorized firmware updates on a router once they identify an exploit. What’s more concerning is that vulnerabilities discovered in certain router models can be used against hundreds of thousands of routers simultaneously.
This is one of the main reasons why finding router exploits is now in vogue among hacker groups. In recent years, hackers have been able to control millions of routers remotely, and exploited them for nefarious purposes.
In many cases, the compromised routers are connected to remote servers to form a botnet network. In other instances, the updates alter DNS settings to redirect traffic to phishing sites designed to capture sensitive information such as banking data, usernames, and passwords.
2. Resetting the Router Login Credentials
Another technique used by hackers to breach router systems is performing a hard reset. This is usually carried out by amateur hackers and just requires having physical access to the router and pressing the reset button on the device.
The ploy allows a hacker to use the default password to access the router. While the technique is easy to execute, it is also easily detectable because a login change will occur, and users will be unable to log in using the regular username and password.
3. Brute-Forcing the Password
Cybercriminals can hack a router through brute-forcing. The strategy works by running hundreds of thousands of probable passwords against the setup network PIN to find the right access credentials.
Usually, software such as Aircrack, Wifite2, Wifiphisher, and Hydra are used to achieve this.
How to Know if Your Router Has Been Hacked
If you suspect that your router has been hacked, here are some of the vital signs to look out for.
1.Slow Internet Speeds
Among the first things to look out for if you suspect that your router has been hacked is slow internet speeds. This occurs because attackers are most likely using the router to browse the web or download malicious files onto the computer.
Hackers could also be sending sensitive files stored in the computer to a remote server, and the immense data transfer could be causing latency issues. Additionally, router cryptojacking attacks often cause an internet bandwidth spike.
2. Unknown Connected Devices
If you believe that your router has been hacked, scan for unauthorized devices connected to it. Usually, the router network dashboard will reveal the number of devices connected at any one time and their host names. An unfamiliar device is usually a red flag.
3. Look for a DNS Change
In some instances, hackers change router DNS settings to reroute traffic to malicious websites. This is usually for the purpose of collecting sensitive information such as credentials and passwords.
It is important to check if these settings have been changed every once in a while. A change would indicate an attack on the router.
4. A Password Change
A password change is among the most obvious signs of a hacked router. Usually, router users will find themselves unable to login using their regular credentials after the device is compromised.
How to Prevent Against a Router Attack
Router hack attacks can be thwarted using a few simple deterrence techniques.
1. Reset the Router
If there are signs that a router has been compromised, among the first steps to take is resetting the router to factory settings. This will revert all changes made to the system and prevent further access to the hacker.
2. Change the Password
After resetting the router, your next step should be to change the password. This is because a reset also retrogrades the login credentials to their default.
The new password should be at least 12 characters long and have a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
3. Set Up a Guest Account
A guest account is ideal if multiple people use the router, and there is a significant risk of cross-device infection. If, for example, there are signs of a phone being hacked but has to be used on the network, it should be connected to its own dedicated guest account so that the infection is limited to only that account.
In this case, the infection is contained through virtualization. This precaution helps to stop malware such as The Switcher Trojan, which is known to carry out phone-router attacks, from spreading.
If there are several guest accounts, it is best to use a password manager to save the credentials. Some of the most popular options are LastPass, Dashlane, Bitwarden, and 1Password.
4. Routinely Update the Router Firmware
Regularly updating the router firmware will prevent past vulnerabilities from being exploited to attack the code.
On most routers, you can enable automatic updates via the settings panel.
5. Disable Remote Access
Some routers have a remote access feature. For enhanced security, it is best to disable this feature so that there is a less likelihood of third parties controlling the router remotely.
6. Use a Network Inspector
To be sure that a router is secure, using a network inspector is recommended. Some cybersecurity companies, such as AVG/ Avast, offer network inspection tools for home users.
On the other hand, Solarwinds Network Insights, Paessler PRTG, Nagios, and Zenoss network suites are ideal for commercial enterprises. They help to detect router network vulnerabilities.
Router Security Is Often Neglected
For most people, router security is rarely given consideration. Security is usually primarily reinforced at the computer operating system level. Because of this, many routers today are vulnerable to security breaches.
Their centralized role in computer networks make them ideal targets for attackers looking to embed malicious code for malware distribution purposes. As such, it is best to follow best practice guidelines when securing a router.
Wondering how to get Wi-Fi at home, what a Wi-Fi router is, or what kind of router you need? This introduction will answer your questions and more.
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