Checking for updates is a critical step to your computer, gadgets and installed software and applications. The reason for this is two-fold. First, you can take advantage of all the new features and improvements of the new version. Second, your system is updated for 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 you’re neglecting. It’s that one device that acts as your gatekeeper for all the data going in and out of your home.
We’re talking about your router, that little device you connect your devices to for internet access. It’s an essential component in every connected household, but we sometimes take it for granted. But did you know that this neglect and lack of interaction with your router could be a big security issue?
According to security researchers, people face several threats from vulnerabilities in routers, especially if they’re running outdated firmware. Here are some of the primary ways your network could be affected:
Remote access to personal files
One is privacy. If hackers successfully exploit flaws in your router's firmware, they could access your personal files remotely. Using bugs on older firmware, just by knowing a vulnerable router’s external IP, an attacker can actually view and copy files over the internet, even without joining an internal network.
Next is data interception. If an attacker successfully exploits old firmware security holes, they can start sniffing data that’s passing to and from the vulnerable router. With this information, they can 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.
What can you do?
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.
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.
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 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 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.
Best wireless routers to get better coverage and speed things up
If you're still not too happy with your Wi-Fi router speeds even after a firmware update, it may be time for an upgrade.