Your home router may be the least secure device in your home network. Unless you’ve paid attention to its settings after it was installed, there’s a good chance some of these devices may be leaving you wide open to hackers. And don’t expect help from the security and antivirus software you’ve installed on your home computers. Because your router (or router/modem if the model you’ve got combines the two) is a separate device that sits between your computer and the Internet, none of your security software protects the router.
Here’s just how dangerous a hacked router can be: In 2012, the Brazilian National Computer Emergency Response Team reported that by sweeping the Internet for vulnerable modems, hackers had located and compromised 4.5 million modems in Brazil that had been running outdated software. The attackers were able to exploit the software vulnerability to obtain each modem's administration password and then compromise that device to direct users to fake banking websites in order to steal their banking credentials and money. On one of the computers the criminals had employed to carry out the scam, authorities found a list of 14,000 victims.
While no device can be made 100 percent hack-proof, there’s no reason to leave your router, or router/modem, any more vulnerable than necessary. Here are five ways to made it a far tougher target.
Note: To change any of the router’s settings as described below, you must first type the router’s local IP address (normally http://192.168.1.1) into your web browser’s address window. Then sign in to the router’s administration software with the user name and password you set up when you first installed the router. (You did set those credentials up, didn’t you?)
1. Change the router’s administration user name and password
This is the most important setting to change. Anyone who can sign into your router as an administrator has virtually free reign over your home network. And many routers come with either no user name and password, or a pair that’s widely known. In fact, websites such as RouterPassword.com make it trivial for a hacker to find out your router’s default settings. Set up a user name and password that are as strong as the one you’d use for a bank account.