Think about how integral a router is to a modern home. It provides internet for your computers, wifi for your mobile devices and, increasingly, helps control thermostats, refrigerators, security cameras, lights and just about anything else electrical. You can even order products you’re low on by pushing a button, all from the internet-magic of your router. Do you have any idea, though, how susceptible a router is to hackers?
Tapping into your router, a hacker can do all kinds of terrible things. They can intercept data going to and from your router and steal your files. They can send you to fake websites full of malware. They can even peep through webcams.
And it’s not terribly difficult to access a router. All a hacker needs in many cases is the router’s IP address and an admin password. These passwords are often, particularly in older routers, pre-set and remain unchanged, so all a hacker needs to know is the factory default password and BAM! you’re compromised.
So what can you do to protect your router from hackers?
Obviously, updating the default password is an important step.
The next thing to do is to make sure your router’s firmware stays up to date. Firmware, as opposed to software, is embedded in the hardware of the router. It’s the computer inside it that makes it run and tells data where to go. Hackers can find vulnerabilities in firmware that give them access to the router, so companies are constantly coming up with firmware updates to address these security holes.
So then the question becomes, “How do I make sure my firmware stays up to date?”
Many newer routers automatically update their firmware, so you might not have to worry about it.
For older routers, and keep in mind that there are tons of different routers out there so the process may vary some, but typically you log into a page in a web browser on the computer or device that’s connected to the router’s network by typing in the router’s IP number. If you’re not sure what it is, just do a search for “______ router ip address,” where the blank is the manufacturer of the router.
From there you’ll usually click on something like “Advanced” and find a link to update the firmware. Hit the button, confirm it, wait for the installation, restart your router (if it doesn’t do it for you) and you’re all nice and updated (and therefore more safe).