WiFi is quietly becoming the de facto method of connecting devices, computers, networks and people. It is WiFi that lets us get rid of cables and plugs and enables us to take our “computers” with us. None of this would be possible without the WiFi routers that we use every day without even thinking about it. (In this posting we use the term ‘router’ to mean any WiFi device that connects more than one device to the network. This includes WiFi routers, access points and extenders.)
Recently Jonny Milliken, Valerio Selis and Professor Alan Marshall, created a specially-crafted virus called ‘Chameleon’. By using default passwords and exploiting poor security, the Chameleon virus is able to break into the router.
Once inside, the virus infects the router by replacing the router’s operating system (called firmware) with the virus’ own firmware. What does the virus do next? Well right now, the Chameleon tries to infect another router.
Why Does it Matter if my Router Gets a Virus?
Because every time you send data (a picture, text, email, something to the printer or even copy a file) wirelessly it goes through a router, an infected router has huge implications for any device connected to your router. The virus, in theory, could listen in and search for some sort of data (such as a credit card number), or change the data before it reaches its intended destination. Taken to extremes the virus could, in theory, try to infect all the devices on your network bringing your digital life to a halt.
What Can You do to Stop it?
Chameleon is just academic experiment right now but that’s not to say a virus like it won’t happen in the future.
There are currently no “anti-virus” programs for home/small business routers, but there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself.
- If you are using the default username/password for your router, then change it.
- If you are not using an encrypted connection or if you are using WEP encryption change to using a stronger encryption method such as WPA2
- If your router has the ability to allow ‘guest’ connections then have non-family members use it.
- Hide your SSID (network connection name) or make it something that doesn’t tell everybody who the network it belongs to.
- Install and configure firewalls on your to block unauthorized access through various network ports.
If this is a little too much for you, if you have any questions or if you want us to do it for you, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or setup an appointment. We’d love to help