Saturday 23 July 2016

Secure Your Home WiFi Or Get Hacked

The title of this article may sound drastic, but it's completely accurate. If you don't secure your home WiFi you are exposing yourself to unnecessary risk, probably in terms you didn't realize.

How bad is it? Here are just a few things someone can do to you if your WiFi isn't secured:

1.     All your files can be encrypted or erased. Family photos, financial documents, everything. It doesn't take much for someone to do either option, and then walk away leaving you to try and recover from backups, or demand a ransom in Bitcoin (very difficult to trace) to unlock or restore your files.

2.     Someone can plant malware on your systems. The possibilities here are endless, but I will offer a small list of worst-case scenarios.

·       They can turn on your webcam & microphone without your knowledge and start recording everything your computers see and hear.

·        They can access any confidential or financial documents stored on your systems and do whatever they like with them, including posting them on the internet.

·       They can steal your passwords (including banking) by installing a keystroke logger. From there they could move money out of your accounts, post inappropriate social media updates, or access content stored in a cloud provider like Dropbox.

·       They can set up a web server on your computer and store potentially illegal documents & images there. You get to explain to the police how illegal content got on your system when it's eventually discovered.

·       They can use your systems and high-speed internet connection to attack legitimate websites.

·       They can send and receive email as you. Potentially embarrassing or harmful depending on the personal or work contact involved.

3.     They can use your internet connection to download copywrited materials like movies, music, or television shows. This can lead to data overage charges if you don't have unlimited data on your plan. In some countries downloading copywrited material can carry large fines, and as the internet subscriber you may be personally liable. 

If this sounds far-fetched it really isn't, in fact all these have happened to people already. Someone just needs to be within range of your unprotected WiFi signal and they can potentially do all these things and many more.

It doesn’t have to be an unscrupulous neighbor. Some of the bad guys do what is called “War driving”, where they drive around neighbourhoods scanning for unprotected WiFi connections, and then use them for their own purposes.

The bad guys just have to park near your home and if your WiFi is unprotected they’ve got you.

So what should you do? Well there are two things that I tell everyone are “must do’s” to protect themselves.
  1. Turn on your router’s wireless security and use WPA2 encryption with a strong password. WPA2 is the current standard in home wireless protection and is difficult to crack. Most home routers support several protocols for security: WEP, WPA, and WPA2 are the most common.

    In WPA and WPA2 there are several variants, for home use WPA2 Personal should be sufficient.
     (NOTE: WPA is not the same as WPA2, it is regarded as insecure, make sure you use WPA2.)

    If you are using WEP encryption you need to change to WPA2. WEP is easy to crack due to a flaw in it’s design. If your router doesn't support WPA2 it's time for an upgrade.

  2. Turn OFF your router’s WPS button. WPS stands for Wifi Protected Setup, and in theory it is supposed to give owners a really simple and secure way of joining their devices to the network. The problem is many WPS systems use a PIN that never changes, meaning it can be hacked using a brute force attack.

    I used a free tool called Reaver to try this out about 2 years ago and was able to get the PIN for almost half the networks I scanned. It took little effort. To disable the WPS function you will need to poke around your router's settings. Look for a WPS tab and set it to "disabled" or "off".
Doing these 2 simple things will greatly reduce the chance that someone will misuse your WiFi.

You wouldn’t leave your home unlocked with the door open, so why do the digital equivalent with your network?

Happy surfing!

-The Home Geek

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