Earlier this week the United States and Britain accused Russia of launching a cyber attack on computer routers, firewalls and other networking equipment.
This joint warning is a first-of-its-kind, and both sides are urging people to better protect their own networks.
Russia is using hacking techniques to gain control over a large number of business and home routers. Your home has a modem that connects your home to your ISP, and a router that connects all the devices in your home to your modem. Sometimes these two things come together in a single box, e.g. a combo modem plus router.
“Once you own the router, you own all the traffic, to include the chance to harvest credentials and passwords,” said Howard Marshall, deputy assistant director of the cyber division at the FBI. “It is a tremendous weapon in the hands of an adversary.”
This is extremely dangerous as it is laying the groundwork for future offensive operations from Russia (or, whoever else has access to a very large and distributed network of other people’s routers.)
What can you do about it?
Routers that are out of date are the most vulnerable. Here is how to check if your router is up to date:
- If your internet service provider (ISP) provided you with your router, confirm with your ISP that it is up to date. Ask if there are any known security issues that have yet to be patched in an update. You can double check what they tell you by visiting the router manufacturer’s website directly and looking up your model.
- If you bought your own router, you need to confirm for yourself that it is has been upgraded with respect to any security updates from the manufacturer. Get the model # from your router, and go the manufacturer’s web site and look up the model #. All significant router manufacturers make this information relatively easy to find on their websites. They get this question constantly.
What about my WiFi, is it secure?
Securing your home WiFi network is important. If a hacker has access to your home Wifi network, they can access your router that way too.
The checklist for a secure home Wifi is:
□ Use a private/encrypted network –an unsecured network won’t prompt you for a password to connect to your network. Add a password to weed out any potentially unwanted visitors. This also ensures that any data sent on your network is encrypted when travelling over the air.
□ Change your router username and password – update them from the default ones that came with the router.
□ Turn the router’s built in firewall on – enable the firewall on your router, it won’t cause you any pain, and will make it more difficult to attack your router and the devices behind it from the outside.
□ Disable SSID broadcast – this will make it more difficult to publicly find your network because it won’t be broadcasting its name to all devices in vicinity.
You should also inform yourself – click here to learn more about what a hacker does.