There is one essential gadget in your home that you most likely never think about. But you really should. It's your lifeline to the internet.
Of course, I'm talking about your router. This is an essential component in our internet-connected households and businesses. Unfortunately, they can also be a gateway for hackers.
Hackers could be exploiting your router
Virgin Media is warning the 800,000 customers using its Super Hub 2 router to change their passwords because of a security flaw that was recently discovered. A team of researchers found a vulnerability that could be exposing their passwords to hackers. Having access to your router's password would allow hackers to take control of any smart gadgets on your network.
This flaw affects anyone who has not changed their router's default password. Researchers looked at the Super Hub 2 router specifically for this vulnerability; however, all routers are vulnerable to hackers if you don't change the default password.
Not only do you need to change your router's password, but you should also be checking for firmware updates regularly. Checking your router for new firmware and security updates to prevent exploits 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.
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.
How to bring your router up to speed
Updating your router’s firmware is 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 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 192.168.0.1 for Virgin Media's Super Hub 2, 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 routeripaddress.com.
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.