Key steps to keep wireless networks secure

As WiFi networks become more prevalent, vulnerabilities in wireless routers and other devices are increasingly being exploited in cyber attacks. 

A security researcher recently discovered a serious vulnerability in several D-Link wireless routers that could give hackers the ability to view or change a device’s setting without knowing the administrator’s username and password.

The source of the vulnerability is a backdoor in the firmware likely placed there to allow a device’s settings to be changed automatically without the password. However, an intruder with the right know-how can exploit the flaw and access the router’s web interface.

D-Link has announced it will release a patch to correct the problem by the end of October.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time a wireless router has been found to have a significant security vulnerability.

Earlier this year, security consultancy Independent Security Evaluators (ISE) released a report identifying thirteen wireless routers it says contain critical security vulnerabilities. The flaws could allow attackers to change the routers’ configuration settings or bypass security controls and gain access to computers on the network or intercept information as it travels on the network.

And in 2011, thirteen different small and mid-sized businesses in the Seattle area were hit in a string of attacks that exploited lax security on wireless networks. The hackers used a technique known as “wardriving” — or, driving around in a car equipped with a Wi-Fi receiver that could reveal information about nearby wireless networks.

Police said the hackers targeted businesses using WEP security for their wireless networks. After finding a WEP-protected network, the group used cracking software to figure out the network’s encryption key, according to court documents.

Steps to secure wireless networks

As more work is being done remotely and on mobile devices, IT managers are likely concerned about keeping data secure when users connect to public WiFi networks. However, businesses are also relying more on their own internal wireless networks, and IT should make sure they’re taking steps to keep them secure.

One key step is to keep the firmware on routers and other devices patched and up to date. Those devices should also be replaced as more secure technology becomes available.

Here are some other WiFi security recommendations from ISE:

  • Disable remote administration.
  • Disable network services that are not utilized within the LAN, such as File Transfer Protocol (FTP), Server Message Block (SMB) and Universal Plug and Play (UPnP).
  • Choose a non-standard IP address range to make automatic attacks more difficult.
  • Enable secure HTTPS for all administrator connections.
  • Use a secure administrator password that includes special characters and a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters.

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