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Wifi Security Alert: Malware Has Already Breached Countless Routers

vpnfilter malware attacking routers
(Image credit: Threatpost)

If you want real Wifi security, you need more than just a strong password; your router must have reliable network security, too.

Let’s face it: most of us will buy a Wi-Fi router without worrying about the hardware not featuring a strong network security. We’ll probably care more about its range and data transmission speed than security. Tech experts, however, stress that network security has to be high on the list of considerations.

The fact is that your Wi-Fi connection serves as the gateway to all your gadgets. If that’s compromised, you’re virtually leaving your smartphone, smartwatch, smart TV, computer, laptop, and any smart home devices such as Amazon Echo/Google Home speakers ripe for the picking by cybercriminals.

Sadly, cracking your passcode isn’t the only way to infiltrate your home’s wireless network.

Malware can attack your router directly, too.

A Widespread Router Infection

Talos—Cisco’s cyber threat research arm—discovered in recent months that a malware system has already infected hundreds of thousands of Wi-Fi routers. In collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the agency reports that the Russia-linked malware has mostly affected routers from popular brands (e.g. TP-Link, Netgear, Linksys). Last month, however, Talos adds that the same malware has spread to routers from brands like D-Link and Asus.

vpnfilter cisco talos
Stages of a VPNFilter attack (Image credit: ZDNet)

This recent cyberthreat only solidifies the cause to take network security more seriously. The malware, named VPNFilter, is capable of manipulating your network’s Web traffic.  Cyber crooks could exploit this window to load a fake banking site, which looks like the one you normally use, on your browser. If you fall for this ploy, your credentials could be stolen and bank accounts cleaned out. These hackers are using similar ploys to take your passwords for email, social media, etc.

A Frightening Discovery

Imagining the potential damage this recent finding could do is outright scary. What makes it a whole lot worse is how anyone using some of the most popular routers on the market could already be affected at this point. That’s why D-Link, Netgear, and Linksys have advised its customers to install the latest security updates. They also encouraged people to come up with usernames and passwords that are tough to crack.

We’ve covered tips on creating better and more secure passwords in a previous post. How about updating a router’s firmware? In a 2014 survey involving I.T. professionals and remote employees, the data reveals that only a fraction of the correspondents knew how to update their router’s firmware.

That percentage gets considerably lower when you add casual Internet users into the mix.

We’ll share with you ways to secure your router and, by extension, your gadgets after the jump.

Keeping Routers Safe

Making your router less susceptible to the latest malware threats requires a multi-pronged approach.

That is why HelloTech offers an expert “Wifi Security Setup & Optimization” in-home service for just $69. If you want to tackle the issue yourself, here are 3 things you need to do right away:

Set a strong password and unique username

The fact is that most Wi-Fi routers come with generic passwords right out of the box. This is intentional as manufacturers actually want you to make the necessary changes.  Haven’t made the necessary changes to the username and password on your router’s interface? It may be time that you do so.

For starters, come up with a username and password combo that’s stronger (and less predictable) than “admin” and “password”. Online security experts recommend that you use long, complex passwords. Try using nonsensical phrases that are peppered with numbers and special characters. An example would be “Run 4 D h!lLs” or “1 lyK5 gr3en Egg$ & h4m”. Take note of the use of alphanumeric characters, spaces, as well as randomly capitalized letters.

Update the router’s firmware regularly

Follow these steps to get the latest security updates for your router:

  • Consult the instruction manual for your router to retrieve its IP address. Jot down and remember the numbers as they will give you access to your router’s Web dashboard.
  • Enter the router’s IP address into a Web browser to see the base station. Log in using the default username and password or your newly created credentials.
  • On the router’s Web dashboard, search for the firmware settings. See if there’s an option to check for the latest firmware version.
  • When you see that an update is available, install it and let the router restart right after.

In case you’re using a router provided by your ISP (Internet Service provider), call their customer service department. Ask whether your router has been updated with the latest firmware.

Replace your router every few years

Can’t see any available firmware updates from your router’s manufacturer? The product/model may have already been discontinued. Without that support, your home network could be an easy target for any malware.

If it has been some time since the manufacturer has provided a firmware update, you may have to upgrade to a new router. Keep in mind that most of the routers inflicted by the VPNFilter malware have been in service for more than five years.

The Case for More Secure Routers

Let’s say you find all these steps too complex. What do you do? Try a smarter router when the time comes that you need to update your router. The latest Home Wi-Fi systems like Luma, Eero, and Ubiquiti offer automatic firmware updates and better security. Sure, they cost more than conventional routers, but it’s worth the peace of mind. You can sleep soundly at night in knowing that your own network hardware actively keeps hackers and snoops at bay. Better yet, try adding a smart firewall into the mix.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

The stakes are very, very high. Upgrading and getting comprehensive Wifi Security may sound like a grueling process, but it doesn’t compare to the hassles and irreversible damage done by identity theft at the hands of hackers. If you want to be absolutely sure your network is secure, let the experts at HelloTech handle it for you. No need to worry, stress, tinker, or doubt. A HelloTech expert will come to your home for just $69 and give you complete peace of mind.

HelloTech editors choose the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.

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