When was the last time you looked at your home router? We tend to only notice these magical boxes when something goes wrong. And given that many of us get our router as part of a single broadband box (technically known as a gateway, combining modem and router in one device), there’s even less incentive to peek under the covers and get familiar with the technology. Yet as our main link to the internet, either by Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi, routers play an absolutely crucial role for us, akin to a cyber front door for the smart home.
There’s just one problem: hackers know this and they’re becoming increasingly adept at exploiting any security weaknesses on these devices to grab our data, install malware, and remotely control our smart devices.
New research published by Consumer Reports reveals that many of the home routers sold in the US today are still missing basic protections. It’s time we got to grips with our routers (or the routers in our gateways), and took proactive steps to protect the smart home.
The gateway to your smart home
There was a time when the router simply provided an internet connection for your home PC, your laptop and/or your mobile devices, assigning an identity (an IP address) to each to enable their connections. Things have since become a lot more complicated. With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), over a quarter (27%) of US consumers now claim to have three or more smart home devices. These could be anything from smart TVs and speakers to connected baby and home security monitors, to smart door locks and intelligent refrigerators. It’s no surprise that sales of connected home products in the US alone are estimated to generate $5.4 billion in revenue by the end of 2019.
The router is the network hub for all of this connected technology. It’s vitally important to keep it secure because, unlike PCs and mobile devices, smart gadgets don’t have the capacity for anti-malware software to be installed on them. That means if a hacker manages to get inside your virtual smart home via the router, they could have free reign to target these devices.
How is my router exposed to hackers?
As mentioned above, according to the August 2019 research from Consumer Reports, multiple router models are still failing on security. The non-profit testing body screened for around 60 different indicators of good security and privacy practice. Here’s a brief list of common failings:
What attacks are possible via home routers?
A vulnerable router means a vulnerable smart home. Attackers can target security deficiencies to: steal your most sensitive data and log-ins; take-over your smart devices and router to launch attacks on others; or even manipulate your home gadgets to compromise the physical security of the building. Here’s a breakdown of those threats:
How to protect your router
Because your router is the hub for the entire smart home, it should be your first port of call when looking to improve home cyber security. Consider the following best practice tips:
How Trend Micro can help
Trend Micro HouseCall for Home Networks, a free application available on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, helps home users who want to know if their home network or connected devices are vulnerable to hacking or network threats. This free app scans your devices, including your router, for known severe vulnerabilities and provides advice to help you mitigate the risk.
In addition, Trend Micro Home Network Security (HNS) provides deep protection against network intrusions, web threats and identity theft for every device connected to the home network. It features:
* Note: These features are available through the Early Access Program for those who wish to be the first to try the latest protections from Home Network Security.
Watch our Trend Micro Home Network Security YouTube videos for easy-to-understand snapshots showing how HNS works.