Here at komando.com, we always take our time to advise you to always check for and apply updates to your computer, gadgets, and your installed software and applications.
The reason for this is two-fold. First, you would want to take advantage of all the new features and improvements a new software or firmware version may roll out. Secondly, you want to update for security. Software and firmware updates always contain bug fixes and patches that will remedy exploitable flaws that may compromise your security.
Now, you may be religiously keeping all your devices and applications up-to-date. That's all well and good but there might be one critical device in your home that you are neglecting to check. It is that one device that acts as your gatekeeper for all the data that goes in and out of your home.
Yes, we are talking about your router, that little device you connect your devices to for internet access. It is an essential component in every connected household nowadays but we sometimes take it for granted. We set it up then stick it in a corner, occasionally checking it when our connections become unbearably slow, or maybe reboot it sometimes and make sure the blinking lights say all systems go.
But did you know that this neglect and lack of interaction with your router could be a big security issue?
According to security researchers in Tripwire, users face several threats from vulnerabilities in routers, especially if you are running outdated firmware.
One is privacy and data interception. If hackers successfully exploit flaws in your router's firmware, they could access your personal files remotely. They could also record all your online activity, including username and passwords, and even re-route your traffic to fake websites.
Routers can also be taken over to perform illegal activities like piracy or utilized for denial of service attacks. The scary part is that you might not even know that your router is compromised and is being snooped on or is actively being used for nefarious deeds.
Checking your router for new firmware and security updates to prevent exploits like these is then a must. If you haven't checked and updated your router recently, don't feel bad, security researchers are saying that most of us don't.
In fact, in another Tripwire study, they found out that even IT professionals don't update the routers at their homes regularly. Some routers do download firmware updates automatically, but user approval is still needed to apply them.
Some routers don't even get security updates anymore like this router from Quanta. If your router manufacturer doesn't issue security updates, think about replacing it.
So what does this mean? It means most of the routers out there are treated like plug and play appliances and they never get updated with the newest security patches, making them ripe for attacks.
So what can you do?
It's not as hard as it sounds. It depends on your router brand and model but all of them have an administrator page you access via a browser. All you have to do is type the default IP address of your particular router on your browser address bar and that will take you directly to that page.
Common IP addresses for popular routers are 192.168.1.1 for Linksys and D-Link, 192.168.0.1 for Netgear, or 192.168.2.1 for Belkin. If you're having trouble finding your router's IP, consult your user manual or you can check online for lists such as this.
Once you're on the router administrator page, most of the time, you will have to enter a username and password to log in (while you're at it, please change your router's default username and password for obvious security reasons). Once logged in, check for a section called "Advanced" or "Management" to check for firmware updates.
Usually, you will have the option to check, review, download, and install your router's new firmware on the same page. Again, it depends on your router model, so check your user manual for detailed directions on how to do this.
Keep in mind, though, that router firmware updates require a restart so make sure you don't have ongoing activities that require a network connection when you apply the update.
And lastly, for peace of mind, it is recommended that you check for router firmware updates at least once every three months.