Hackers will use any tool at their disposal to get what they want, and one of their latest tools is your home router. I'm not just talking about taking it over so they can snoop on your network either.
It's easy to forget, but routers are computers too. They have processors and memory, and, most importantly for hackers, direct access to the Internet.
That means a hacker can infect a router and use it to launch attacks against other Internet-based computers. The hacker doesn't even have to touch your computer or any other gadget on your network.
That's just what's happening right now. Security firm Incapsula has been tracking a growing router botnet, or group of routers under hacker control, since December.
The routers in question are being used in two ways. Some of them are working to take over other routers and add them to the botnet. However, the rest are being used in DDoS attacks, or Distributed Denial of Service.
Basically, the hackers can use the routers to flood a website or online server with traffic. This can slow it down or crash it. Hackers often use this tactic as a form of protest against companies or governments.
In fact, the high-profile group that loves this tactic is Anonymous, and it's used to most recently attack Israeli spy agency Mossad and the KKK. Incapsula originally linked this hack to Anonymous, but then downplayed it, so I'm not sure what the final story is on who is behind it.
Still, the who isn't as important as the what. The routers that are at risk are from a company called Ubiquiti, which mostly sells overseas. That's one reason most of the affected routers are in Thailand (64%) and Brazil (21%), with the U.S. in third at 4%.
Unfortunately, Ubiquiti routers have remote access enabled by default, and use the same default username and password. That means any owner who didn't change the default password when they set up the router is at risk.
This is a good reminder to always change the default password on your router, ideally while you're setting up encryption for your network. If you aren't sure how to do either, click here for my step-by-step instructions.