Think of your router as the door to the online world that opens every time you visit a web page or download a movie. And just like the front door of your house, it serves as the first line of defense against invited visitors. Yet people are fine with using the default router set up by their ISP, which is like giving a copy of your key to the handyman installing the door. Many homeowners are unaware of the dangers that come from compromising the security of their router, not knowing that hackers are easily able to mess with the device’s settings to install ads, plant spyware, or use exploitative cryptojacking viruses. The situation might sound grim, but a little carefulness and know-how is enough to slam the door in the face of your attackers.
Convenience at the Cost of Safety
Asking your internet provider to include a router alongside the service might seem like a winning idea at first as you don’t need to pay a high upfront cost for a separate device, and the company’s technician will even come and set it up for you as well. Don’t forget that the operators at the HQ will often have remote access to the device, too, which they can use to remotely solve any potential problem on your behalf without you even needing to lift a finger.
However, ISPs aren’t known to invest in the most secure hardware, quite the opposite actually. They prefer to partner with manufacturers whose product is cheaper, often with a convenient backdoor so the operators can login at any time. Unfortunately incorporating digital skeleton keys into the routers heavily weakens their security as ISPs have a habit of relying on default usernames and publicly available algorithms to generate passwords – at least in situations where they don’t just hardcode one into the system, which is even worse.
Compromised Hardware Leads to Hacking
Hopefully we don’t need to go into detail illustrating the risks of a router that’s remotely controllable after acquiring an easily guessable username and password. After tracking your IP it’s child’s play for a hacker to identify your device and the simple tools to crack the defenses. That is unless your ISP doesn’t do the job for them; in a fabulous display of carelessness an internet provider in Singapore performed remote maintenance on the routers of its customers but forgot to close the backdoor afterwards, leaving roughly 1,000 homes completely exposed and defenseless.
How Can I Protect Myself?
If you notice strange ads popping up in your browser – especially if they are of a pornographic nature or selling illegal services – every time you are connected to your home network, then the chances are high that the router has been corrupted. Other signs include being infested with viruses even when you haven’t visited salacious websites or opened any phishing links, or your system running unusually slow due to the secret installation of crypto mining malware.
So what can be done to prevent these pests from setting foot on your device? If you happen to have a router from an ISP, go into the hardware settings and change the admin credentials. The next step should be to choose a different SSID since this is the name that your device displays during identification. And don’t forget to look for firmware updates every now and then to manually install them since ISPs are always late with maintenance and that can leave you open to newer attacks.
Still, the best course of action is to ditch the default router altogether and purchase one independently. If you wish to kill two birds with one stone, then we recommend opting for a router that comes preinstalled with a VPN. It not only does this guarantee that your router won’t have been tampered with or have any undue security flaws, but the encrypted data stream blocks hackers from grasping details of you from any device connected to its network.
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