Forget Your PC, It’s The Home Router That Could Be Opening You Up To Hackers, Says Avast

Security firm Avast has issued a warning for homeowners looking to set up speedy Wi-Fi network in their homes after finding that the security of home routers is often shockingly behind modern standards.

Speaking to TechWeekEurope at the launch of Avast Antivirus 2015 last month, company COO Ondrej Vlcek said that home Wi-Fi routers were facing a range of attacks as hackers look to go after smaller targets.

“Wi-Fi is the thread that ties your home together,” Vlcek says, “But routers are the single weakest link in the chain.”

Link to the past

Recent research carried out by Avast found that nearly three out of four internet-connected households in the UK are at risk of getting attacked through their wireless router, with security provision for such devices lagging far behind expected modern standards.

“Today’s router security situation is very reminiscent of PCs in the 1990s, with lax attitudes towards security combined with new vulnerabilities being discovered every day creating an easily exploitable environment,” said Vince Steckler, chief executive officer of Avast. “The main difference is people have much more personal information stored on their devices today than they did back then. Consumers need strong yet simple-to-use tools that can prevent attacks before they happen.”

Worryingly, the study also found that more than half of all routers are poorly protected by default or common, easily hacked password combinations, with ‘admin/admin’ or ‘admin/password’, or even ‘admin/<no-password>’ troublingly common.

Overall, 15 percent of respondents said they had fallen victim to hackers, although less than half of British people strongly believe their home network is secure. However most seemed to be unaware of the actions they could take to protect themselves, with 37 percent admitting they didn’t take any steps beyond basic firewall installation.

‘Huge risk’

Vlcek, who said he was surprised that the risks of unsecured routers was allowed to go on for such a long time, as the company sees attacks targeting routers ‘every day’. He recommends personal encryption via a virtual private network (VPN) as the best solution for worried users.

He also had words of warning for those of us prone to using open Wi-Fi networks, describing public Wi-Fi as “a huge risk”. Seventy percent of all web traffic is not encrypted, Vlcek warns, meaning outsiders could see everything, possibly opening up users to a range of risks.

In order to combat these threats, Avast Antivirus 2015 comes with what Vlcek calls ‘total network protection’, which looks to protect networks as a whole, an important factor as we connect more and more devices together. Controlling the networks yields more power than targeting individual devices, Vlcek says, with Avast offering what it says is the world’s first Home Network Security Solution to protect users from home network threats, including DNS hijacking and weak passwords.

This tool can also help protect Internet of Things networks, a significantly growing area in the UK, according to Avast’s study. The research found that 88 percent of wired households in the UK have six or more devices connected to a Wi-Fi network, with mobile devices (28 percent), printers and scanners (17 percent), smart TVs (12 percent), and DVD or Blu-ray players (4 percent) the most common additions to a Wi-Fi network alongside PCs.

“The reality is that people’s homes are becoming more connected than ever,” Vlcek says, “but the problem is that there is no security against internet-borne threats on these devices.”

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Mike Moore

Michael Moore joined TechWeek Europe in January 2014 as a trainee before graduating to Reporter later that year. He covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to mobile devices, wearable tech, the Internet of Things, and financial technology.

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