Most people who have Internet access in their homes own a wireless router. If you are one of them, chances are you may have already been a victim of a cyberattack, according to a recent study.
The American Consumer Institute (ACI) has determined that 5 out of 6 routers have severe security flaws. Unfortunately, this opens the gate to even more vulnerabilities, because many consumers own lots of unsecured IoT devices which are connected to the router: baby monitors, wireless cameras, various medical devices and sensors, and so on. It goes without saying that many companies are affected by these vulnerabilities as well.
We all know that many of our electronic devices store important data. I am thinking at financial information, passwords for various online accounts, text-based conversations with our contacts, and more. And yet, few of us realize the fact that all this information can be made available to hackers by simply connecting one of our devices to an unsecured wireless network.
For personal networks, most security problems can be fixed by shutting down the router, visiting its manufacturer's website, downloading, and then installing the most recent firmware updates. The process isn't always as easy as it sounds, though. Many manufacturers stop patching older routers only a few years after their release, because they want to sell new devices. And even if router patches are available, they are often hard to find on their makers' websites.
To make things even more complex, some manufacturers will only provide access to firmware updates to people who take the time to create an account on their sites. This is often a no go for many people, who don't want to get their inboxes inundated with spammy emails. It is true that a few router manufacturers, such as Asus, make router patching easy by providing mobile applications which can connect to the router, and then apply the newest patch in less than a minute.
Therefore, if you own an older router that can't be patched anymore, it is important to understand that the device has got several vulnerabilities that can make your home network a very easy target for hackers. Still, before investing money into a new product, you should consider switching to an open source router operating system, which won't cost you a dime, and may revive your wireless network, fixing lots of security holes and adding new features to your router. Most people utilize VyOS or OpenWrt, for example.
According to ACI, which has used Insignary’s Clarity scanning tool for this study, 83% of the analyzed routers have been found vulnerable, and almost 30% of the discovered vulnerabilities were ranked as critical or high risk. On average, each router had 12 critical vulnerabilities and 36 high risk vulnerabilities.
Since routers are a central connection point for all the Internet-ready devices, it is obvious that if the router is unpatched, all their data that is received from and sent to the web can be exposed as well. To give you an example, an attacker who has gotten access to a Wi-Fi based surveillance camera will easily be able to determine the best moments when he can break into that home.
The conclusion is simple: if you value your data and possessions, you should take the time to patch your router regularly. For best results, pick a router from a hardware manufacturer that is known for its proactive support. Then, subscribe to one of the frequently updated cybersecurity websites and have their daily alerts delivered to your inbox. By doing this, you should manage to remain one step ahead of cyber criminals.