Home and Small Business Routers Attacks – Awareness and Security

September 24th, 2021

Hackers use a range of techniques to access to home networks and, through those networks, into your interconnected devices. In 2020, the sale of smart home devices in the U.S. totaled $4.3 billion, for an idea of how ubiquitous Internet of Things (IoT) devices have become a part of our lives.

These connected devices are a tempting target for your friendly neighborhood hacker. Exploiting a router vulnerability is just one of the ways of infiltrating the home network.

Yes, that harmless looking router can be an entry point for your other devices.

The router problem

Router security is not a new challenge. It has entered the limelight once again in part because the ‘work from home’ and ‘learn from home’ models rose to prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic. With more and more people working remotely, cybercriminals saw home routers as an easy way of not just attacking IoT devices, but also gaining access to organizational networks.

 We have had instances of attackers hacking into home routers, sending users to malicious sites that install malware onto their computers. A router hijacking can also be the first step in an attack chain that converts your computer into a ‘zombie’ for use in DDoS attacks on organizational systems. And this is just the start. Hackers can also control your IoT devices to spy on you and your activities.

If the home router is breached, the resulting havoc is limited only by the cybercriminal’s imagination.

How do attackers hack a home router?

Cybercriminals are continuously upping the ante when it comes to cyberattacks. so it comes as no surprise that they are hacking into home routers. While doing so, they exploit certain vulnerabilities that often exist in these routers:

Backdoors: Many a times, vendors integrate certain features that help them administer the router remotely. Such router firmware can drive faster development and ensures problems can be sorted out quickly. Often, vendors can leverage these backdoors to deliver emergency updates. However, these built-in backdoors can be exploited by hackers.

The hard reset: In this case, the hacker must have physical access to the home router. Then, all they need to do is press the hard reset button, which enables them to gain router access through the default password. Unlike the ‘vulnerability exploit’ which is difficult to detect by laymen (the home/business owner), this hack can be detected easily, as users will no longer be able to use the existing login and password.

Brute force attacks: A brute force attack is launched against a huge number of active home routers – and such attacks don’t have to dig deep. The remote management features in routers are used to launch brute force attacks. This helps hackers bypass authentication and gain control over the router.

Key signs of a router attack

A router compromise is difficult to detect. There are some signs, however, that can tell you that your home router has been compromised:

  • You might see that many of your computer’s key security features have been disabled, which is a clear indication your computer has been compromised, and the ingress point could be your router. It is therefore imperative that you keep an eye out for security notifications and not mute or ignore them.
  • It’s alive! Yes, imagine your computer operating on its own. It’s not just the cursor that moves on its own, but programs open on their own, and leading you to think ‘there is a ghost in the machine.’ Well, there isn’t. The truth is even scarier: it’s a cybercriminal,  and that criminal has now taken control over your computer. This means he can see personal documents, images, and more.
  • A hacked router can result in a burst of network activity that is not directly linked to your own internet usage. The hacker is using your network bandwidth. If you think a usually fast internet is slowing down, you might have a “hacker infestation” on your hands.

Remember that if your computer is behaving oddly, without rhyme or reason, it is imperative to look for a security breach.

Router attack security

So how do you secure your router?

First, a secure router is an outcome of security awareness. Always be aware that your router can be exploited to access your home network.

The next step is to not think of the router like any other digital device. Make sure that your router is kept in a safe place, and that you take steps to improve its physical security. Keep it away from the window and somewhere inside the home where it cannot be accessed physically by hackers.

Next is making sure that your router is properly configured and the firmware is updated regularly.  Once a potential vulnerability is identified by vendors, they push a firmware upgrade. Also, router security means ensuring that router settings cannot be managed over the internet. Make your router as difficult to access as possible.

And finally, deploy an antivirus solution that can protect your computer even if hackers get access to your computer via a hacked router.

The same malware that attacks Fortune 500 companies attacks private users, too. Sophos Home uses the same award-winning security features that keep those companies safe. With Sophos Home, you get the benefit of a high-performance malware scanner that scans and cleans your computer,  removing malware that could be impacting its performance. Your computer is also protected from viruses, ransomware and all other advanced malware that have an eye on your private information, files, images, and documents.

It is important that you don’t take your router security for granted. From the perspective of cybercriminals anything is fair game. They will do whatever it takes to hack into your computer, because that’s their job. Your job is to protect it all costs.

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