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Router security - what you need to know to protect your home network


Let's address the elephant in the room. You may have read that some Linksys routers have security vulnerabilities. The first thought that you might be having is:

Is the Linksys router provided by StarHub affected?

The good news is, we have received confirmation from Linksys that the router models we carry – Linksys EA7500v2 and Linksys EA8100 – are not affected by the vulnerabilities highlighted in SingCERT’s security advisory. If you need more information or assistance relating to security advisories on Linksys routers, you may call Linksys’ at +6701 6971.


What if you are using other router brands / models? There are still some generic tips that will help you reduce the chance of falling victim to such attacks. 


Tip #1: Change your router admin portal password 

Your router admin portal password is the password that allows you to access the admin portal of your router. The portal allows you to change your network configuration and is usually accessed only when you first set up your router. This is also the place where you can set your Wi-Fi network name (SSID) and Wi-Fi password. The steps to change the password differs between manufacturers but you can easily find the password change option once you are inside the admin portal. 


Never seen how your router portal looks like? Click one of the following (relevant) links while connected to your home Wi-Fi network to reach the login screen. It should work unless you have changed the settings before. 


The problem with these portals is that manufacturers can't strike a balance between making it easy for consumers to setup their routers and making it difficult for hackers to access that page. The bad news is that the default username and password for each manufacturer are usually the same across their range of offerings. The good news is that hackers can't access the admin portal remotely by default. This brings us to the next point of not enabling remote management unless you know what you are doing.


Tip #2: Don't enable remote management unless absolutely necessary 

As shared in tip #1, your router's admin portal is usually not accessible remotely. By default, most routers only allow access to the admin portal via its internal IP address (i.e. when you are connected to your home Wi-Fi network). 


However, there is a feature called remote web management (or similar sounding names) that exposes your admin portal to the interns. This exposure allows random malicious bots / hackers scanning the network to notice that your portal is accessible and thus inviting them to attempt to break into your router. This is worse if you did not change the default password as mentioned in tip #1. 


If you have to enable remote web management, please do set a strong password that is unique from any other passwords that you are currently using for other sites. 


Tip #3: Safeguard your Wi-Fi password and set a guest zone if possible

 Like having visitors? The first question they will ask is "Got Wi-Fi or not huh?" which actually simply means "What's your Wi-Fi password?".


What's the big deal? you may ask. Two things to start: 

  1. Improperly secured network shared drives / devices in your home are immediately exposed to your guest(s) once they have your home Wi-Fi password.
  2. So you trust your friend. But do you trust their devices? A compromised (malware infected) smart phone or laptop can automatically try to log into your router admin portal with the default password! (See tip #1)

To mitigate this, make sure you enable Guest Zone on your router and only provide the Guest Wi-Fi password to your guests (and devices you don't really trust). Instructions on how to set up guest zone / Wi-Fi is beyond the scope of this article and is dependant on the router brand and model. 


Tip #4: Keep your Wi-Fi router firmware updated

Just like software updates, you need to make sure that your router's firmware is updated regularly to protect against vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers to access your router. If your router is old, consider replacing it because older routers may no longer receive firmware updates. New routers also come with better performance and security features. For instance, the latest router models that we carry - Linksys EA8100 and Linksys EA7500 - support automatic firmware updates. 


What can a hacker do to me if my router has been compromised?

Plenty! A hacker can hijack DNS and redirect you to malicious websites even though you tried to access the correct ones. A hacker can see your Wi-Fi password and access your private network, thus, potentially accessing any devices connected to your home network. There are a lot more things they can do but you get the idea. Take note of the tips above and don't be an easy victim! 


You can leave a comment if you need some advice but your router's manufacturer would be the best resource for your questions. 

Some of my posts are unofficial and may contain personal opinions which may not represent the positions and opinions of StarHub Smiley Happy