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Chinese hackers are going after American routers – How to protect yours

Your router is a crucial part of your home’s connection. It’s the primary way the internet gets into your house, and it sends out the Wi-Fi signal that connects all your wireless devices.

Has it been years since you updated your router? We put together a quick quiz to help you choose the perfect model for your home and needs. This is a must if your connection is spotty and your router isn’t equipped with the latest security standards. Tap or click here to take our router-finder quiz.

Even if your firmware is up to date, your router is still vulnerable to attack. No system is impenetrable, and the issue gets compounded when professional hackers from other countries get involved. Read on to see why Chinese hackers are targeting routers here in the U.S. and what you can do about it.

American networks are under attack

You might think your house is of no particular value to Chinese hackers. While that might be true, it isn’t always about what’s on the network but more about what it connects to. According to joint research from the FBI, NSA and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Chinese hackers have been poking around U.S communication networks for over two years.

This includes home Wi-Fi routers, telephone networks and online storage. The goal isn’t to hack into these devices but to use them as part of a massive network of compromised infrastructure. Hackers can then use the combined power to launch attacks on critical and military targets, steal login credentials or hijack banking information.

According to the research paper, the People’s Republic of China has been exploiting “a wide variety of targets worldwide, including public and private sector organizations” since 2020. The majority of the targets are in the U.S.

What you can do about it

In its report, the U.S. cybersecurity agency says Chinese hackers exploit known and unpatched vulnerabilities, tunneling their way through the network to collect and redirect traffic.

Hacking is complex, but there is one crucial thing you can do to keep safe or minimize your risk of an attack. You must update your router’s firmware each and every time a patch is available.

Unlike your computer or phone, you won’t get warning after warning when it’s time to update. We recommend checking at least every couple of months. Put a reminder on your calendar to do this quarterly. Bonus points if you schedule a monthly check. It only takes a few moments.

Here’s how to secure your home network and keep your devices safe:

  • Update your router’s firmware or operational software regularly. It might not prevent every attack, but it is a good security practice. The method is different for most routers, but when you log in, check for an Advanced or Management option and click on Updates.
  • Always change your router’s default password and ensure that it’s something that hackers can’t guess or find online. If you’ve never changed your password, here’s how to find the default login info so you can.
  • The most popular Wi-Fi security right now is Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) encryption. This standard is over a decade old. If you’re shopping for a new router, be sure it supports WPA3. To check your encryption settings, go to the router’s admin menu. You should be able to find encryption under the “Wireless” or “Security” menu.
  • While your router’s firmware is important, keep your connected devices updated with the latest vulnerability fixes, too. This is just one more weak spot in your home’s connection.
  • Only have devices connected to the internet that you use regularly. Old gadgets pose a considerable risk as support for them probably stopped long ago.

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