If you’re reading this blog, you are likely a Le VPN user. There are many reasons why you may be using a VPN. You may want to enhance your personal online security, such as protecting your online identity, especially when you’re away from home. Or you may want to access online content and services that are not available in your location.
Whatever the reason, you likely use additional online protection to secure yourself, your data, and your equipment:
- You use antivirus software to prevent, detect, and remove malicious software, such as computer viruses.
- You use a firewall to create a barrier between destructive elements and your network or a specific computer.
However, there’s one more item you need to secure to completely protect yourself in cyberspace. Wondering what that is? It’s your router.
If you’re like most people, this is probably the one computer in your home that you forgot to secure, and it’s the computer that’s the gateway to all the others.
Over the years, home computers have become well protected, because people understand that they need good passwords, anti-virus software, and firewalls to protect themselves.
However, with the advent of wireless technology and the proliferation of portable devices, hackers have now turned their attention to your router–the one computer in your home that is rarely protected and that is often vulnerable.
Your router is a networking device that sits between your modem, which connects to your ISP (internet service provider), and your home network. It controls your wireless network. Often, you receive your router from your ISP. Sometimes, your router and your modem are combined in a single machine.
As a computer, your router has its own built-in software, known as firmware. This software is rarely updated, which leaves you vulnerable to threats from hackers. In contrast, the software running on your computers and portable devices is updated frequently to protect you.
There are other reasons that routers are particularly vulnerable:
- Users often do not configure their routers properly. Many do not change the default passwords or settings. This problem is often compounded by a difficult-to-use interface and poor user documentation.
- Many ISPs distribute the same routers to thousands of their customers, which makes them a much more inviting target to hackers. If they can break into one router, they can break into them all.
Hackers attack routers to gain access to computers on your network, steal your information, send SPAM, and even create bots that they use to attack websites. In the past few years, there have been many attacks around the world against routers, which often leave their victims with identity theft, loss of privacy, and damaged computers.
For example, in Poland in 2014, hackers modified the DNS settings on victims’ routers. First, their rogue DNS servers misdirected users to a fake banking website. Next, the hackers launched a simple man-in-the-middle attack to attempt to steal banking credentials, and eventually money.
Your VPN can protect you in many ways, but it can’t protect you from attacks that target your router.
Part of your Internet strategy should include securing your router. Here’s how:
- Always change the admin password on your router to a good password. Don’t leave your router with the default password, as that’s how hackers break in.
- Ensure that your router’s firmware is up to date.
- Use good Wi-Fi security. This means turning on WPA2 and turning off WPS.
We developed RouterCheck, a free and user-friendly Android app that checks these settings and many others for you. RouterCheck determines whether your router is vulnerable to hackers, and it provides instructions on how to resolve the problems it finds.
About the Author
Jennifer Paton Smith is a freelance technical writer. Her personal technical-writing website is sericonconsulting.com. She is co-founder of Sericon Technology Inc., which develops RouterCheck.
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