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It is beginning to feel like the Internet is a basic necessity for existence in the 21st century. With all our devices connected to the Internet, we have an indescribable physical mobility that leads to increased productivity. It is safe to say that the Internet is for everyone and does not limit itself to the tech savvy. Unfortunately, when not safeguarded, the Internet can be a playground for nefarious activities caused by people with malicious intent.
Take a home wireless network as an example. Almost every member of the family accesses it through laptops, PCs, cell phones and tablets. With the Internet of Things, there is a gamut of other elements in the home that access the Wi-Fi. A small vulnerability in the home Wi-Fi network can give a criminal access to almost all the devices that access that Wi-Fi. This could spell trouble for bank accounts, credit card details, child safety, and a whole lot of other concerns.
The following tips can help secure your home Wi-Fi network against unauthorized access.
1. Change the default name of your home Wi-Fi
The first step towards a safer home Wi-Fi is to change the SSID (service set identifier). SSID is the network’s name. Many manufactures give all their wireless routers a default SSID. In most cases it is the company’s name. When a computer with a wireless connection searches for and displays the wireless networks nearby, it lists each network that publicly broadcasts its SSID. This gives a hacker a better chance of breaking into your network. It is better to change the network’s SSID to something that does not disclose any personal information thereby throwing hackers off their mission.
2. Make your wireless network password unique and strong
Most wireless routers come pre-set with a default password. This default password is easy to guess by hackers, especially if they know the router manufacturer. When selecting a good password for your wireless network, make sure it is at least 20 characters long and includes numbers, letters, and various symbols. This setting will make it difficult for hackers to access your network.
3. Enabling network encryption
Almost all wireless routers come with an encryption feature. By default it is turned off. Turning on your wireless router’s encryption setting can help secure your network. Make sure you turn it on immediately after your broadband provider installs the router. Of the many types of encryption available, the most recent and effective is “WPA2.”
4. Turn off network name broadcasting
When using a wireless router at home, it is highly recommended that you disable network name broadcasting to the general public. This feature is often useful for businesses, libraries, hotels and restaurants that want to offer wireless Internet access to customers, but it is usually unnecessary for a private wireless network.
5. Keep your router’s software up to date
Sometimes router’s firmware, like any other software, contains flaws that can become major vulnerabilities unless they are quickly fixed by firmware releases from the manufacturer. Always install the latest software available on the system and download the latest security patches to ensure no security hole or breach is left open to online predators.
6. Make sure you have a good firewall
A “firewall” is designed to protect computers from harmful intrusions. Wireless routers generally contain built-in firewalls but are sometimes shipped with the firewall turned off. Be sure to check that the wireless router’s firewall is turned on. In case your router doesn’t have such a firewall, make sure you install a good firewall solution on your system to watch for malicious access attempts to your wireless network.
7. Use VPNs to access your network
A virtual private network, or VPN, is a group of computers or networks that work together over the Internet. Individuals can use VPNs, like Norton Secure VPN as a method to secure and encrypt their communications. When you connect to a VPN, a VPN client is launched on your computer. When you log in with your credentials your computer exchanges keys with another server. Once both computers have verified each other as authentic, all your Internet communication is encrypted and secured from outside prying.
Most of all, check what devices connect to your home network and make sure they have reliable security software like Norton Security installed against viruses and spyware.
Many people buy a wireless router, bring it home, plug it in, connect and then forget about their Wi-Fi network.
When you fail to secure your wireless network, not only can someone connect and use your network for illegal or malicious activities, they can also steal private information like user names, passwords, bank account information, social security numbers and other personal information you have stored on your computers and devices.
How to Secure Your Home Wireless Network
Take a few minutes to secure your wireless network to ensure your safety.
1. Change Your Router Password
Each router comes with a default password that allows you to log into the router. Change the password when you install the router and then change it again every few months.
Choose a strong password that is at least 8 characters long, the more the better. Use a combination of numbers, upper and lower case letters and symbols.
2. Disable Remote Administration
Remote administration allows you to log into the router remotely via the internet and make setting changes to the router. Most users never use this feature and unless you do use it, remote administration should be disabled.
3. Change Your SSID
The SSID, short for Service Set Identifier, is the name of the wireless network. All routers have a default SSID. You must know the SSID to connect to a wireless network.
If there are several wireless networks in range and they have the same SSID, it can be confusing when trying to figure out which network is yours. Changing the SSID also adds a bit of security. If a hacker knows the brand of router you have based on the default SSID name, they are better able to know what vulnerabilities that particular brand of router has.
They can then use that information to potentially break into your network. When you change the default SSID, choose an SSID that is random. Do not use your name, address or any other personal information when creating the SSID.
Consider changing the SSID a few times a year.
4. Disable SSID Broadcast
The SSID of the router is broadcast to anyone within range of your wireless network. That means your neighbors and anyone close to the router can see your wireless network.
You want to disable SSID broadcast after you have setup and configured your router and successfully connected your computers and other devices to the router the first time. After you disable the SSID broadcast people looking at their list of available wireless networks will no longer see your network listed.
Disabling the SSID is not a strong security measure in itself but combined with other security actions, it adds an additional layer of security.
5. Use MAC Filtering
MAC filtering allows you to specify which devices are allowed and not allowed to connect to your network. Each network card has a specific media access control address (MAC address) and no two hardware devices use the same MAC address.
A MAC address consists of six pairs of numbers separated by a colon. Wireless routers have a setting called MAC filtering. Using MAC filtering you can log into your router and enter the MAC addresses of the devices you would like to allow to connect to your wireless network. All other devices will be locked out.
You can also block specific MAC addresses from connecting to your router. Some hackers have mimicked MAC addresses, so don’t rely on this alone.
6. Use Encryption
Encryption encodes the data transmitted between your computer and other devices and your wireless router. Use the strongest type of encryption your router supports. Choose a strong, unique preshared key/passphrase. This key will be used by anyone who is connecting to your wireless network. As with any other key or password, choose one that is at least 8 characters long and is a combination of numbers, upper and lower case letters and symbols. Change the key a few times a year.
7. Disable Wireless Protected Setup
If your router offers Wireless Protect Setup (WPS) it is best to disable that feature. Hackers have found a way to exploit the PIN feature to get your password.
Wi-Fi protected setup allows you to connect devices to the router using a PIN or Push Button Connect. Using the PIN option, you enter the PIN number on your device to connect. Push Button Connect lets you push a button on the router or click a button while logged into the router and for a limited amount of time a device within range can connect. This allows devices to connect without knowing the passphrase.
8. Pay Attention to Device Lists
Most routers have a device list feature. You can view the list to see what devices are currently connected to your router. You should occasionally review the list and make sure only devices you use are connecting.
By Brian Mastroianni
January 20, 2016 / 6:00 AM / CBS News
How secure is the data you share over your home Wi-Fi connection? Not as secure as you might think, according to experts. Software bugs in ubiquitous devices like Internet routers can leave your personal information at risk to hackers. As we continue to move into an ever-more-connected age, everything from smartphones to Web-connected printers could expose personal data in ways you might not realize.
Six years ago, for the first time ever, the number of Internet-connected devices surpassed the number of people in the world, according to a 2015 report from the Federal Trade Commission. By 2020, there will be an estimated 50 billion connected devices, and by that same year, 90 percent of consumer cars will be connected to the Internet. The FTC warned that while so many companies are creating products for the “Internet of Things” — everything from smart kitchen appliances to children’s toys — they “may not have experience” dealing with security.
The Wall Street Journal recently commissioned a cybersecurity expert to test 20 new home Internet routers and found half had outdated firmware (the program that runs the device) with security flaws, including several with known problems that had not been patched.
In one example cited by the Journal, in 2014 engineers at software company Allegro Software Development Corp. discovered that router manufacturers had been churning out devices for years using old Allegro software instead of a newer version that was updated to fix a security bug. Without the security update, the routers put millions of consumers’ Internet connections at risk of being hacked.
Devices that contain software that is not up to date to plug known security flaws is an all-too-common problem.
“This kind of thing is not new at all,” Peter Tran, GM and senior director at the network security company RSA, told CBS News. But he says it’s becoming an increasingly serious concern as more people work remotely and share data over Wi-Fi.
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Tran said that out of the roughly 4.6 billion workers in the world, 20 percent telecommute at least part-time. That means there are a lot of people going online in their living rooms, not to mention opening their laptops in coffee shops or airports, sharing data over Wi-Fi connections that could be compromised. Even password-protected home connections can be vulnerable if they’re not kept up to date with security patches.
Is this a concern that a lot of people should have? Yes. Is it a concern that a lot of people actually have? No, Tran said.
“It’s easy to get in that mentality. The Verizon cable person sets you up and they will do everything for you and all they care about is getting you on the Web as fast as possible. The average consumer has their network’s broadcast ID and access point easily accessible. All the settings are on the router, they could configure their own firewall, they could do what they need to secure themselves, but that isn’t something they realize,” he said.
Whether the circuit board of your router is outdated is dependent on the manufacturer and the overall consumer supply chain that churns out these devices. The Wall Street Journal notes that manufacturers don’t have much motivation to keep sending updates for older routers.
Now that we live in an era of the “smart home,” with hybrid routers that accommodate television, phone, personal Internet access, and other connected devices, Tran stressed that it’s important that the average consumer remain vigilant.
“Anything that needs a connection to an Internet, anything that is ‘smart,’ is natively unsecure by default. There’s going to be a risk, no matter where you are,” Tran explained. “The way we deliver data now — through the cloud, for instance — needs greater and greater access points wherever you go. Other than your laptop and your device, the huge risk as far as being able to access the core of where your data is residing is the Internet access point. The bigger threat, to me, is how we as individual users are becoming the hub with spokes for would-be cyber criminals to traverse across a multitude of access points.”
So, what can people do to protect themselves and their private data? Tran said that there are some good “Internet hygiene” practices to keep in mind. First, you should ask your service provider whether the firmware, the permanent software programmed into your router’s read-only memory, is up to date. The second is to check out what wireless encryption your provider is using. Thirdly, you should restrict your Internet access point from being discovered outside. For instance, you don’t want “John Doe’s Internet” to be broadcast widely for all to see.
Tran said one basic step that most people neglect to take is to set up a complex password that will be tough for hackers to crack. Instead of something easy like “Jon123,” make sure your password is more involved, and be sure to change it every 90 days, which he stressed decreases the risk that your connection will become compromised.
When going online, make sure your device is communicating directly with your router. Tran says you want to make sure you’re using your own Internet access and not going through “someone else’s connection” by mistake.
He also offered this food for thought: “More and more the problem is the printed circuit board industry itself. Roughly 88 percent of all circuit board manufacturers, those that make routers, for instance, are in Asia. They are in China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Now, 42 percent of those are all manufactured in mainland China,” Tran said. “There’s a lot of debate right now about the source of state-sponsored cyber attacks, corporate espionage.”
Tran said that while many people worry about where their food is sourced, they take their electronics for granted.
“People look for non-GMO, fair-trade-and-sourced food products,” he said. “They should do the same thing with the tools they use for their Internet connections.”
First published on January 20, 2016 / 6:00 AM
© 2016 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
by Jared Howe · May 6, 2014
If you read this blog, you are probably aware about the security problems inherent to public WiFi networks. But what about your home WiFi network? Since it’s most likely encrypted, you probably don’t think much about it.
And that’s a mistake, because some of the “out of the box” settings can result in subpar security that can put you at risk.
Below are some tips about making sure your home WiFi network is as safe as it can be:
• If your home WiFi network is not encrypted, encrypt it immediately. And if your WiFi router is using WEP, change it to WPA/WPA2.
All WiFi routers support some kind of encryption, which scrambles information you sent over the Internet. There are several kinds of encryption, so be sure to choose the strongest form available. WPA (WiFi Protected Access) or WPA2 is the strongest in use right now. Do not use WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy), as it out of date and has serious vulnerabilities.
• Change the default router password.
Check to see if your router’s password is still using the default password you received when you first installed it. Many of these default passwords are easily guessed by hackers. If someone guesses correctly, they could get access to your router settings, including your security keys.
• Change the default SSID name and disable SSID broadcast.
The SSID (Service Set Identifier), or network name, is the name assigned to your wireless router. Many routers use the brand of router as the SSID by default. This is risky because anyone can see the SSID, and if a hacker knows the router brand, they can know how to attack it. To that point, your WiFi router typically broadcasts the SSID to everyone. This was designed for open WiFi networks, and not for home networks. It increases the chances that someone will detect your network and try to break into it. Most WiFi routers allow you to turn off the SSID broadcast option.
• Enable your router’s firewall.
All routers come with firewall capability, but this default setting can be turned off. Make sure that it’s turned on. For even more security, make sure that each computer on your networks also uses a firewall and antivirus software.
• Enable MAC address filtering.
Every mobile device and/or computer has a unique identifier called a MAC address. This allows WiFi routers to keep track of all the devices connected to them. Many WiFi routers allow administrators to physically enter the MAC address of the devices that want to connect to the network, which would keep out anyone else. This is known as MAC address filtering.
• Disable remote administration.
Most routers allow administrators to connect remotely. If you do not need this, disable this feature, as hackers could take advantage of it. You can still change router settings by attaching a network cable from your computer to the router.
While most of us know about the risks of public WiFi networks, we probably are not as well aware of the risks posed by our home networks. Taking a few minutes to make sure our home router security is as good as it can be can help prevent any future headaches.
As always, we must remain vigilant to make sure our security is not compromised.
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Today’s home network may include a wide range of wireless devices, from computers and phones, to IP Cameras, smart TVs and connected appliances. Taking basic steps to secure your home network will help protect your devices – and your information – from compromise.
- Understand How a Wireless Network Works
- Use Encryption on Your Wireless Network
- Limit Access to Your Network
- Secure Your Router
- Protect Your Network during Mobile Access
Understand How a Wireless Network Works
Going wireless generally requires connecting an internet “access point” – like a cable or DSL modem – to a wireless router, which sends a signal through the air, sometimes as far as several hundred feet. Any device within range can pull the signal from the air and access the internet.
Unless you take certain precautions, anyone nearby can use your network. That means your neighbors – or any hacker nearby – could “piggyback” on your network or access information on your device. If an unauthorized person uses your network to commit crime or send spam, the activity could be traced back to your account.
Use Encryption on Your Wireless Network
Once you go wireless, you should encrypt the information you send over your wireless network, so that nearby attackers can’t eavesdrop on these communications. Encryption scrambles the information you send into a code so that it’s not accessible to others. Using encryption is the most effective way to secure your network from intruders.
Two main types of encryption are available for this purpose: Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP). Your computer, router, and other equipment must use the same encryption. WPA2 is strongest; use it if you have a choice. It should protect you against most hackers. Some older routers use only WEP encryption, which likely won’t protect you from some common hacking programs. Consider buying a new router with WPA2 capability.
Wireless routers often come with the encryption feature turned off. You must turn it on. The directions that come with your router should explain how. If they don’t, check the company’s website.
Limit Access to Your Network
Allow only specific devices to access your wireless network. Every device that is able to communicate with a network is assigned a unique Media Access Control (MAC) address. Wireless routers usually have a mechanism to allow only devices with particular MAC addresses to access to the network. Some hackers have mimicked MAC addresses, so don’t rely on this step alone.
Secure Your Router
It’s also important to protect your network from attacks over the internet by keeping your router secure. Your router directs traffic between your local network and the internet. So, it’s your first line of defense for guarding against such attacks. If you don’t take steps to secure your router, strangers could gain access to sensitive personal or financial information on your device. Strangers also could seize control of your router, to direct you to fraudulent websites.
Change the name of your router from the default. The name of your router (often called the service set identifier or SSID) is likely to be a standard, default ID assigned by the manufacturer. Change the name to something unique that only you know.
Change your router’s pre-set password(s). The manufacturer of your wireless router probably assigned it a standard default password that allows you to set up and operate the router, as its “administrator.” Hackers know these default passwords, so change it to something only you know. The same goes for any default “user” passwords. Use long and complex passwords – think at least 12 characters, with a mix of numbers, symbols, and upper and lower case letters. Visit the company’s website to learn how to change the password.
Turn off any “Remote Management” features. Some routers offer an option to allow remote access to your router’s controls, such as to enable the manufacturer to provide technical support. Never leave this feature enabled. Hackers can use them to get into your home network.
Log out as Administrator: Once you’ve set up your router, log out as administrator, to lessen the risk that someone can piggyback on your session to gain control of your device.
Keep your router up-to-date: To be secure and effective, the software that comes with your router needs occasional updates. Before you set up a new router and periodically thereafter, visit the manufacturer’s website to see if there’s a new version of the software available for download. To make sure you hear about the latest version, register your router with the manufacturer and sign up to get updates.
And when you secure your router, don’t forget to secure your computer too. Use the same basic computer security practices that you would for any computer connected to the internet. For example, use protections like antivirus, antispyware, and a firewall — and keep these protections up-to-date.
Protect Your Network during Mobile Access
Apps now allow you to access your home network from a mobile device. Before you do, be sure that some security features are in place.
Use a strong password on any app that accesses your network. Log out of the app when you’re not using it. That way, no one else can access the app if your phone is lost or stolen.
Password protect your phone or other mobile device. Even if your app has a strong password, it’s best to protect your device with one, too.
Having an open wireless network is a security risk as it may allow anyone close enough to your router (e.g., a neighbor or someone war driving) to access your network. To make your home wireless network more secure, consider the below suggestions.
The steps below require access to the router setup, and we also recommend configuring wireless security over a computer with a wired connection to the router if possible. For help entering the router setup, see: How to access a home network router setup or console.
Because all routers are different we cannot provide specific steps for every router. Check your router’s documentation for exact instructions.
Close the network
If you have never been prompted for a key, password, or passphrase when connecting to your wireless network, it is an unsecured network. In other words, if anyone is close enough to your router, they could connect to your network. To enable security, open your router setup screen and look for a Wireless Security section. The picture shown here is an example of a Linksys router set up in the Wireless Security section.
Select the wireless security method of either WEP, WPA, or WPA2 (we suggest WPA or WPA2, which is mentioned further down on this page). The, enter a passphrase to generate the keys. After enabling security on the router, any wireless device must have the key to connect to your network.
Change default password
Make sure the router password is not using the default password. If the default password is used, it can be easily guessed and give someone access to your router. With access to the router setup, a person could change your router settings, including viewing any security keys.
If available use WPA, not WEP
Many routers today offer two or three different security schemes: WEP, WPA, and WPA2. We recommend WPA or WPA2 security since it is more secure than WEP. However, for compatibility with some older devices, such as gaming consoles, TiVo, and other network devices, WEP may be the only security option possible to use. Using WEP is still better than no security at all.
Disable remote administration
When enabled, remote administration allows anyone close enough to your router to view or change your router settings. If you never plan on remotely administrating your network (e.g., wirelessly connecting to the router), we recommend disabling remote administration. With routers that support this option, it is often disabled through the Administration section.
When disabled, the router settings can still be changed using any computer that is directly connected to the router using a network cable.
Change the default SSID name
The SSID is the name that identifies your wireless router. By default, many routers use the name of the router as the default SSID. For example, Linksys routers use ‘Linksys’ as the SSID. Using a default SSID is a security risk, because it identifies the brand of the router. It would help an attacker find a way to exploit vulnerabilities in the device.
When naming the router, do not use your family’s name or any other personally identifiable information. For example, if the SSID contains your family’s last name, it can be identified by any neighbor that knows you.
Enable router firewall
Many routers also have a firewall that can be enabled. If available, we also suggest enabling this feature, as it helps add an extra layer of security to your network.
Disable SSID broadcast
To help make finding your wireless network easier, wireless routers broadcast your SSID, which means anyone looking for a wireless router could see your SSID. To help make it more difficult for someone to find your network when browsing for a wireless network, you can disable the SSID broadcast feature. However, when disabling the SSID broadcast, it requires you manually enter your router’s unique SSID when connecting any new device to your network.
Enable wireless MAC filter
The wireless MAC filter feature only allows a wireless device to connect to your router if the MAC Address is entered into the filter list. Doing MAC filtering can make connecting new devices to your network more difficult, but improves the overall security of your wireless network.
A quick and easy way to set this up is to connect any wireless device you want on your network to your router before enabling the wireless MAC filter. After each device has connected, access the router setup and open the DHCP client table, often found in the Status or Local Network section. Each device that has connected to your router can be copied into a Notepad, then pasted into the wireless MAC filter section of the router Security section.
WiFi networks used in work places and homes are secured with a password. To an end user, that password is what security looks like. Open or public WiFi networks have no password and hence are unsafe but WiFi network security is more than just its password. The password is used to grant access to the network. Behind the scenes, different types of security are applied to keep the network safe. Here’s how you can check the security type for a WiFi network that you’re connected to on Windows 10.
You can learn about the various WiFi network security types here.
WiFi network security type
There are three ways to check the WiFi network security type on Windows 10. You can go through Command Prompt, the Settings app, or you can go through Control Panel. In all cases, you should be connected to the network you want to check the security type for. For networks that are in range but you’ve never connected to, you cannot find out their security type.
WiFi network security type – Settings app
Open the Settings app and go to the Network & Internet group of settings. Select the WiFi tab and click the network that you’re connected to (there will only be one).
Scroll to the very end of the next screen and look for ‘Security Type’.
WiFi network security type – Command Prompt
Open Command Prompt with normal user rights and run the following command.
The command will return information about the current WiFi network that your system is connected to. Look for the ‘Authentication’ line and it will tell you what security type is being used.
WiFi network security type – Control Panel
Open Control Panel and go to Network and Internet. Select Network and Sharing Center. Click on the name of the network you’re connected to.
In the window that opens, click the Wireless Properties button. A new window will open. Go to the Security tab and the Security Type dropdown will tell you what the network is using.
If you find that the security type being used isn’t the most secure, you may or may not be able to do anything about it. If it’s a work/office network, you will have to talk to the system administrator about improving the network security. If it’s your personal home network, and you know how to change a router’s configuration, you can change the security type used yourself. If the router has been provided by your ISP and you cannot change its settings, consider getting your own router or asking your ISP to change its security type.
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Wireless Networking 101
- Wireless Networking 101
- Why You Need a Router
- How Safe is WPA2-Secured WiFi?
- How To Lock Down Your Wireless Network
- Router Tips to Make Your Wireless Faster
Darryl Boyett asked if his home WiFi connection, which uses WPA2 protection, is safe enough for online banking.
I can’t promise you that it is absolutely, 100-percent safe; but yes, it is safe enough.
If you have a router (and you should), and you have not turned off that router’s wireless capabilities, then you really need to secure that WiFi connection. And WPA2 is currently the safest way to do that.
An unsecured connection allows neighbors and strangers access to your Internet connection and possibly your home network. They could stream video over your connection, slowing down your own Internet access. If they have the skills, they may be able to search your hard drive for bank account numbers and other sensitive information. Even worse, they could download something illegal, such as child pornography, and it will look to the police as if you’re the guilty party.
So you need protection, and WPA2 offers considerably more than the older standards, WEP and WPA, both of which can be cracked in minutes. WPA2 can also be cracked, but if you set it up properly, cracking it will take more of the criminal’s time than anything on your network is worth (assuming you’re not working for the Department of Defense or the Mafia).
Check your router’s menus or manual to find out how to set up WPA2 protection.
One important part of setting it up properly is to use a strong password. Your dog’s name is not a strong password. Neither is ralph, humdinger, or password. But LcSGm\|lJ]Xc;
In this day and age, digital cameras such as still image and video recording cameras, home surveillance devices, and baby monitors all come with WiFi capabilities. While there are benefits of WiFi-enabled cameras, unfortunately, there’s also the potential for security concerns. For example, just in November 2014, the BBC reported that a Russian website displayed live feeds from private webcams, baby monitors, and CCTV systems from more than 250 countries to prove how easy it can be for attackers to access these cameras.
Here are some things you should know before deciding to purchase or use a WiFi-enabled camera.
WiFi Image and Video Cameras
Many consumer point-and-shoot digital cameras, as well as some professional-level digital single lens reflex (SLR) cameras, now include WiFi as a standard feature. Digital cameras with built-in WiFi give you the benefit of higher resolution (compared to many smartphone cameras). Additionally, WiFi enables you to easily transfer photos and videos to your computer, smartphone or tablet, or to a cloud-based service like Facebook or Flickr.
But WiFi in digital cameras could potentially be used against you. German security researchers discovered a weakness in a WiFi-connected Canon digital SLR camera. Through the vulnerability, researchers found that a hacker could wirelessly steal photos from the camera, upload their own images to the camera, or use the camera for spying.
WiFi Monitoring Cameras
WiFi monitoring cameras offer benefits such that it gives you the ability to stream video of an area (such as your back door) live, for real-time monitoring. In all, it’s an affordable way for the security-conscious to keep an eye on their home or office, wherever they go.
Unfortunately, thousands of WiFi cameras used for home or office surveillance are vulnerable to remote attacks, security researchers disclosed at a Hack in the Box security conference. Many widely available WiFi monitoring cameras that you can get at Home Depot for as low as $70 authenticate users without requiring them to create passwords. This leaves an open door for hackers to easily gain access to the device and, through the device, to the wireless network to which it’s connected.
Another type of WiFi monitoring cameras take form as baby monitors. Although many baby monitors use radio frequencies, some connect to home WiFi networks, enabling parents to easily see and hear their baby from their PC, smartphone, or tablet.
Similar to how surveillance cameras could be hacked, WiFi baby monitors are just as vulnerable. According to ABC News, in August 2013 a Houston couple heard a man’s voice coming from their sleeping 2-year-old daughter’s room. When they entered the bedroom to investigate, they were shocked to find that the voice was coming from their baby monitor. Evidently, a hacker had compromised the baby monitor. Soon the hacker began shouting obscenities at the couple, which at this point the camera was quickly disconnected.
What’s at Stake?
When a WiFi camera’s security is compromised, cybercriminals can use it to invade your privacy. Furthermore, because the camera is connected to your personal router, hackers accessing your camera could potentially gain access to your entire WiFi network and the devices connected to it. Once they get that far, they could turn off your computer’s firewall, redirect you to a DNS server that in turn sends you to phishing sites, and monitor your traffic and keystrokes – among other things.
What You Can Do
Secure your home WiFi network
Securing your home WiFi network is crucial in protecting your WiFi-enabled cameras from being taken control by hackers. This includes making sure your router is properly secured with a strong password, as well as being encrypted with WPA2. Here’s more detail on how to properly secure your router.
Don’t use the manufacturer’s default username and password
Never use the manufacturer’s default administrator username and password, as these can be easily found online. Instead, create a unique username and strong password. An attacker’s job is made easy because some WiFi-enabled cameras don’t require users to change the default administrator name and password. In fact, according to ZDNet, the baby monitor attacker mentioned earlier very likely gained access to the webcam because the couple hadn’t changed the device’s default administrator username and password.
Research, research, research
Find out what security measures your WiFi camera offers. For example, Dropcam, which makes a popular line of home WiFi security cameras, spells out its security measures on its website. One way to find this information online is via a keyword search on the company name followed by the word “security”, as in “Dropcam security”.
Securing Your Camera
It’s ironic, but devices that seemingly make us more secure can actually be used to invade our privacy and violate our security. That’s why it’s so important to make sure any new device you connect to the Internet, whether it’s a WiFi baby monitor or a digital SLR, is as secure as possible.
Securing Your Home Network
A protected home network means your family can use the internet more safely and securely.
Most households now run networks of devices linked to the internet, including computers, gaming systems, TVs, tablets, smartphones and wearable devices that access wireless networks. To protect your home network and your family, you need to have the right tools in place and confidence that family members can use the internet more safely and securely.
The first step is to keep a clean machine and make sure all of your internet-enabled devices have the latest operating system, web browsers and security software. This includes mobile devices that access your wireless network.
Secure Your Wireless Router
A wireless network means connecting an internet access point – such as a cable or DSL modem – to a wireless router. Going wireless is a convenient way to allow multiple devices to connect to the internet from different areas of your home. However, unless you secure your router, you’re vulnerable to people accessing information on your computer, using your internet service for free and potentially using your network to commit cybercrimes.
Here are ways to secure your wireless router:
- Change the name of your router: The default ID – called a service set identifier” (SSID) or “extended service set identifier” (ESSID ) – is assigned by the manufacturer. Change your router to a name that is unique to you and won’t be easily guessed by others.
- Change the preset passphrase on your router: Leaving a default passphrase unchanged makes it much easier for hackers to access your network. You should change it as soon as possible. A strong passphrase is a sentence that is at least 12 characters long. Focus on positive sentences or phrases that you like to think about and are easy to remember (for example, “I love country music.”). On many sites, you can even use spaces!
- Review security options: When choosing your router’s level of security, opt for WPA2, if available, or WPA – these levels are more secure than the WEP option.
- Create a guest passphrase: Some routers allow for guests to use networks via separate guest passphrases. If you have many visitors to your home, it’s a good idea to set up a guest network.
- Use a firewall: Firewalls help keep hackers from using your device to send out your personal information without your permission. While antivirus software scans incoming email and files, a firewall is like a guard, watching for attempts to access your system and blocking communications with sources you don’t permit. Your operating system and/or security software likely comes with a pre-installed firewall, but make sure you turn on these features.