I heard from a reader worried about the security of his router.
“I have Satellite email. The provider naturally furnishes you with their modem/router. I have read where people can drive by your house with specific equipment and steal your information by getting on your wi-fi connection and then getting all your personal information, taking your money and even people that are on your contacts list. What is the best way to avoid this from happening and how do I go about setting up my router, as a second or backup router, that would prevent this from taking place? Or, is this even possible.”
You shouldn’t require a second router to take care of this. The most common way that people hijack a router is that the network isn’t secured by a password at all. Or if it is password protected, the password is really simple to guess. Just password protecting your network and making sure to follow good password rules when you pick the password is enough to keep your signal safe from most crooks.
But, a sophisticated cyber criminal might be able to access the default username and password that the manufacturer sets for all devices.
All routers are set up with a default username and password in order to configure them. This includes all major wireless routers as well as cable modems provided by your Internet Service Provider. You can easily find this default information by looking up your router model online or using your user manual, and this information can be helpful if you ever need to change any setup information of your network.
However, keep in mind that if it’s there for you to find, it’s there for anyone to find. So if you’ve never changed this information, you should do so. I will admit, when setting up the router for my test, I was asked to supply an administrative password before I continued with my set up. I am not sure if all routers require this, so you may have already changed it. If so, hopefully, you wrote it down somewhere. If not, I’d suggest resetting the router to its default settings, typically done by pressing the Reset button on the back of the router for about 10-15 seconds. Keep in mind, this erases all configurations, so you’ll need to set up the SSID (network name) and password for your secure network all over again.
Your first step would be to check what kind of router you have. Many people have a cable modem/router supplied by their ISP. Some people choose to add an additional router to their network that is connected to the cable modem. It would be smart to change the default password on both of these, because again, they are both easy to find and can pose a risk to your online security.
To change this information on a wireless router not supplied from your ISP, you need the IP address of your router, then the username and password. Go to your favorite web browser and enter the IP address. Many routers will use the IP address 192.168.1.1 but not all, so you would need to refer to your particular router model’s information if that does not work. For example, my test was done on a D-Link, and the default was 192.168.0.1.
You will be asked for a username and password. This again varies from brand to brand, but usually, the username is either admin or left blank, and the password is admin or user or password. (See how easy this is to figure out?) This is the case for pretty much every major router out there.
After you’ve logged in, you want to look for the Administrative section. This also could be listed under Advanced. Look for a section titled Router Password. Choose a good, hard-to- crack password. You may need to enter the current password, then enter and confirm the new password. Once you save, you will likely be thrown back to the login page and asked to enter the username and password again. Enter the new password to confirm and you’re set.
To change the login information on your cable modem provided by your ISP, the process is similar. Look up your modem model supplied by your ISP. (Or you can simply call them and ask for some assistance.) If you do it yourself, once logged in, look for those administrator settings once more. Change the Username and Password fields. You can also change the assigned wireless password, if you never did, to make it easier for you to remember and more secure. Just keep in mind that if you do that, you will have to change it on all devices you’ve connected in the past.
While it is never a good idea to make passwords for your computer or website logins easily accessible, it IS okay to write these types of passwords down somewhere near your computer. If someone has physical access to your computer and wants to do something to the network, they can simply perform the same Reset process themselves.