Has Your Wireless Router Been Hacked?
Malcolm Riddell was a tech-savvy guy who lived on the 12th floor of a building where most of his neighbors were retired seniors. He figured he didn't need a password on his wireless router. But after an unexpected visit from the FBI, he changed his mind. Here's what you need to know to keep hackers from using your wireless Internet connection...
Are Hackers or Criminals Using Your Wifi Router?
FBI agents held Malcolm Riddell against the wall and asked him why child pornography was flowing through his wireless router's Internet connection. For a few tense hours, Riddell faced the possibility of felony charges, prison time and permanent sex offender status. And it was all because his wireless router had been carelessly left open to hackers.
If you suspect that your wireless router has been hacked there are several things you can do to verify and stop it. Start by asking yourself why you think the WiFi router has been hacked.
If your Internet speed suddenly slows down or you lose your connection, it's possible that someone has hijacked your wireless router. But it's more likely a traffic jam or a problem at your ISP's end. If you have a DSL or fiber optic connection, it's dedicated to you. If you have a cable internet connection, it's shared with your neighbors. Ask them if they've noticed any slowdowns. If not, it's more likely you've been hacked.
Next, you can look into your WiFi network to see who is using it, via your router's built-in web interface. Open a web browser and enter the router's IP address into the address bar. Most routers use http://192.168.1.1 as their IP address. If that doesn't work, ask your ISP for the address to login to the router.
The router will ask for a username and password. If the credentials you've used before don't work, it's probable that a hacker has changed them. Reset the router to its default settings, including the default credentials, and change the default username and password to something else. (Note that this is the username and password to login into the router, and NOT your wifi access password.)
Examine Your Router...
If you get logged in to the administrator's console, look for a "My Network" tab or an option to view the "DHCP clients" currently connected to the router. You should know which devices are authorized to use your network. Normally, this would include all the computers in your home, wireless devices such as an iPod or smartphone, and possibly a wireless printer. You may also have a television set-top box that connects to your router for on-demand programming. Some routers keep a log of all connections, so you can look back over the past few days to see if any unauthorized connections have occurred.
If you see an unfamiliar device name, or more devices than you know you have, then you've probably been hacked. Or at the very least, you're allowing freeloaders to access your router without a password. Not good either way. Remember that guy who got the not-so-friendly visit from the FBI?
Most WiFi routers are hacked because the owners did not take the time to secure them. Always change the default administrator's username and password to something long and obscure. Always enable wifi encryption and authentication, so that every device must provide an authentication key (password) to gain access to the router. Make the authentication key long and obscure, too.
There are other tricks you can use to foil hackers, too. If you know that you will not have more than X authorized devices connected to the router at once, look for a place in the router settings to limit the number of available DHCP IP addresses, leaving no room for a hacker. You can also create a MAC address filter that allows only specific, known devices to connect to the router. You'll find the MAC address of a computer in its system information display. Phones and other internet-enabled devices usually have their MAC addresses recorded on labels or in documentation that accompanies the devices.
If all that sounds a bit geeky, ask your internet service provider or a computer-savvy friend for help changing the router settings. With just a little effort, you can secure your router and avoid any unexpected visits from the guys in dark sunglasses.
Do you have something to say about wireless router security? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 3 Feb 2011
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Has Your Wireless Router Been Hacked? (Posted: 3 Feb 2011)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved