Ways to safeguard your router from getting infected by malicious hackers

Amid the Covid-19 crisis, working from home has become a normal practice for many. While it has been a common policy for many corporate organizations, the pandemic has brought remote working to the mainstream as employees have become more productive than ever.
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Even though the pandemic has normalized remote workers, businesses are simply focusing on issues such as productivity, uninterrupted services and basic logistics. No one is paying attention to cybersecurity, data breaches and data leaks.

According to a recent research report titled “Brave the new normal: How companies in the Asia Pacific are overcoming security challenges in a remote workplace”, it was identified that 53 percent of organizations did not have an up-to-date cybersecurity strategy and solution to cover the vulnerabilities posed by 100 percent remote working.

It’s now vital to give threat protection the attention it deserves. After all, remote workers are using their home Wi-Fi routers to fulfill their daily jobs, which creates higher chances of unauthorized users or hackers targeting those networks for indulging in despicable activity and wreak havoc without you even realizing it.

Home Wi-Fi networks are an easier target for malicious hackers than the usual business network because they are less likely to use firewalls and mostly rely on consumer-grade modems and routers with weaker security.

Moreover, home Wi-Fi users also frequently make basic password mistakes for their routers and network. As these networks are often shared with various Internet of Things devices, all of them turn susceptible to hacks, leaving the entire network all the more exposed to remote attacks. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to identify who’s on your connection and safeguard it from them.

Enable and configure Firewall on your router

A Firewall is one of the best security tools built into your router. However, it is not labelled with the same name on every router. One can locate this feature under the router’s advanced settings like “NAT filtering,” “port forwarding,” “port filtering” or “services blocking.”

These settings prevent incoming requests and block specific types of outgoing data through the ports to protect them from outsiders. But users need to be extremely careful with these settings as misconfiguring the ports can make it easier for hackers to barge in. To avoid any such troubles, get in touch with your internet provider to configure optimal port settings for your router.

Refraining from broadcasting your router details

While configuring the router settings, home users should change the service set identifier (SSID) of their network. It is the name that is visible to the outside world sees and by default sets the router manufacturer’s name. It can make a hacker’s life easier than one can imagine as they can easily track the admin logins online. Using a random name rather than the factory default can disappoint a determined hacker from detecting and accessing your network as there will be no broadcasted SSID.

Disabling Remote Access, Universal Plug and Play, and WPS

Routers are usually designed with features that can enable remote access from outside one’s home. But unless you need such access, it is better to turn off those features from the router settings panel as most remote access apps can work reasonably fine without them.

Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) is yet another feature that allows devices like games consoles and smart TVs to easily access the web without striding through a lot of configuration screens.

This can be an advantage for malicious hackers to get high-level access to your router’s security settings and use malware programs for causing extensive damage to data and systems. While keeping the remote access and UPnP feature on will not suddenly expose your network, it is still better to keep them off and enable them only if some of the apps and devices on your network rely on them.

It is also a wise decision to disable the Wi-Fi Protected Setup. Even though it has good intentions of letting you connect new devices with a button push or a PIN code, the feature also makes it easier for unauthorized devices to gain access. So, disable it lest you specifically need it.

Use a VPN

While Virtual private networks are largely used to improve privacy on the internet, they also help in keeping the router secure from invasion. If you or your family members use Wi-Fi hotspots in public places like cafes or malls, using a VPN can protect your devices from any potential attack from such networks. Hackers can compromise such hotspot networks to either steal data from other users connected to them or sneak malware onto the users’ devices. When those devices are connected to your home network, your router becomes an easy target.

A VPN is also a good solution to encrypt all the traffic coming and moving out of your devices. That means arbitrators will not be able to dupe you getting their way into your data stream by penetrating your router. The protection offered by the VPN goes through the router. Even if the encryption provided by the router is stripped off, the VPN encryption can keep your data safe and unreadable.

During the pandemic, frequent news about ransomware and identity theft due to remote working has been very disturbing. The thought of someone meddling into your Wi-Fi almost feels like the threat of being attacked or robbed in your own home. One can avert such attacks without being a technical expert and amend the security of the home Wi-Fi network. Al it requires is to be a little smarter in your habits.

Murali Urs, country manager, India of Barracuda Networks