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Routers & Antivirus: 12 Safety Tips (For Newbies)

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You might be wondering if you should install an antivirus program on your router to protect the router itself and to make sure that the whole network of connected devices is connected.

But it’s not really an option as we will look at below.

Can You Install Antivirus on a Router?
You cannot install antivirus on routers. Routers typically protect networks by using secure passwords and firewalls. A firewall on the router has a set of rules to guard what traffic is allowed to enter the network. Antivirus, on the other hand, is designed for computers.

That being said, there are some things to be aware of.

Let’s dig into the details of the matter and learn what we need to know to keep our networks safe from viruses!

Can Routers Get Infected With Viruses?

It’s very rare that routers get infected with viruses. Routers do not have operating systems but they do have firmware software. You could install a virus on a router through the firmware but generally, viruses are designed to attack computers where files, passwords, etc. are stored.

It wouldn’t make much sense to design a virus to attack a router as the router itself doesn’t contain much data or information.

You might think a virus could benefit from attaching itself to the router software in order to spread through the network. After all, the router is the central hardware piece on a network as it connects all the devices to the internet.

But in reality, that’s not the case.

So, you don’t need to install antivirus software on the router to keep the router itself from being infected by viruses.

There are rare cases where a virus has been designed to install itself on a router. If you suspect that to be the case you need to monitor the DNS. If the DNS has changed you should pay attention to it and make sure to update the firmware and check that everything gets back to normal.

Can a Router Get Hacked?

A router can be hacked in order to get access to the network of computers that are connected to the router. Hackers need to get past the password on the router to access the devices. The router itself is rarely the target of hackers as they contain very little information.

So, when we’re talking about a router getting hacked, we are basically only concerned about computers, phones, smart TVs, tablets, etc. on the network.

A router is simply not interesting to hackers.

It’s just a piece of hardware and software they need to hack to get into the system.

There have been extreme cases where a ton of routers in private homes and businesses were compromised by large organized groups of hackers. That’s exactly what happened in 2017 when the FBI sent out a statement about thousands of routers that had been targeted by hackers.

In the statement they asked people to make sure to keep the firmware up to date and to make sure to use a strong password:

“Although there is still much to be learned about how this particular threat initially compromises infected routers and other devices, we encourage citizens and businesses to keep their network equipment updated and to change default passwords.”
(Source)

6 Tips to Keep a Router Secure

These are the 6 general tips you need to know in order to keep your router safe from hackers and malware:

  1. Always make sure you run the latest firmware on the router
    This is very important. The manufacturers will put out updates when necessary to keep you secured
  2. Renew the password regularly
    It’s important to update the passwords at least every 3-6 months. This makes sure that only you have access. And hackers who gained access by cracking the passwords will be thrown out.
  3. Use strong passwords
    NEVER include English words or names.
  4. Use WPA2 (or WPA3 for the best security)
    WPA3 is the highest level of security. Take advantage of this if your system supports it.
  5. Change the name to something random
    This ensures that nobody can guess that this is your network. It’s too easy to identify a network when the router is named “Petterson’s cage”.
  6. Use a good firewall
    A Firewall is the best way to secure your router. It will set up rules for who are allowed to pass information past the “router gate”.

When you use these three precautions you should generally be good to go.

If you suspect that someone else has forced access to your router you should immediately reboot it and change the password.

You don’t need to worry about a switch, however. The switch is a rather simple piece of hardware that just lets the data pass through. There’s no software on a switch that can be infected by a virus of any kind.

IoT Networks Need Strong Router Security

If you like to connect all your gadgets and devices to your network you need to make sure you have a very secure network.

We are starting to see all sorts of devices getting connected to our router and wireless networks. These include:

  • Thermostats
  • Light bulbs
  • Locks
  • Smoke detectors
  • Light switches
  • Door Bells
  • Etc.

This calls for a higher level of security on the router.

This is crucial because an intruder could potentially gain access to all these devices as they enter the network.

In order to keep your network of internet-connected devices and appliances save and private, you need to take some extra precautions. It’s not enough to use a cheap consumer router to guard the whole thing. You need something a little more solid to guard the network.

6 Tips for Keeping IoT Networks Secure

Here are some things to think about when we talk security on a network of IoT devices:

  1. Use strong encryption for the network.
    You need to make sure you are running WPA2 encryption to ensure that it’s not too easy to crack into the system.
  2. Use a strong password with special characters.
    Make sure not to use any English words in the password. Even though it makes the password much easier to remember it also makes it a whole lot easier to crack. I’ve taken a course in “Ethical Hacking” where I saw how EASY it is a hack a low-security password or of common words and letters. (more on that below).
  3. Keep all software up to date
    Make sure not to run older versions of firmware or software anywhere on the system. That goes for each device and appliance on the network as well as the router itself. It’s important to update whenever an update comes out and turn on “auto-update” where possible. This will ensure that the latest patches and security updates will get installed on each device as they come out.
  4. Enable two-factor authentication
    This step adds a TON of security to your system and it will also add some extra work for you. But that’s worth it if you desire to connect your whole house to your Wifi, so to speak.
    This can easily be done with your phone. You don’t need a separate dongle with pin numbers to do this. You just install an app that lets you verify that you are you by pressing a few numbers you get on a text message or inside an app.
  5. Limit outside access
    Don’t make it too easy to access your network. Shut off features you don’t need and make sure you don’t keep any open ports that are not necessary for the things to work.
  6. Create a guest network
    Don’t invite anyone in the house unto the network where all your things are connected. Have a primary network that only you use and a separate one for guests. You can also create a dedicated wireless network ONLY for your IoT devices.
    By doing this you make it harder to access your stuff and you can use two-factor authorization on the network of the things without having to require this for everyone on the network.

It’s Easier Than People Think to Gain Control of a Router

As mentioned above, I recently joined a course for “Ethical Hacking”.

It’s a course designed to inform people of the threads in order to help build better and more secure systems and networks. At this course, I was just how easy it is to brute force your way into a network.

With a simple list of free software, anyone with good computer skills can teach themselves to crack into a router.

You can run around 800 requests per second to guess the password from a list of the thousands of most commonly used English words!

Can a Router Spread a Virus?

A router will not spread a virus actively. A virus may spread over a network (via the router) but it will do so when a data package is shared between the computers and devices on the network.

When you have a local network (wireless or wired) you might be wondering if one computer on the network can spread a virus to the other computer over the router.

This is more related to the nature of the virus than to the abilities of the router.

A router may have a strong firewall

Sources:

https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-announces-actions-disrupt-advanced-persistent-threat-28-botnet-infected

https://us.norton.com/internetsecurity-iot-smart-home-security-core.html

https://www.consumerreports.org/digital-security/ways-to-boost-router-security/

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