Should you worry about your router being hacked?

Easy answer: yes, probably.

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen some security warnings saying that you had better reboot your router. Hopefully you’ve already done this. If not, go ahead. Unplug it from the wall, wait 5 seconds, and plug it in. It’s a simple fix that apparently protects you from some Russian malware out there. If you have an affected router, hopefully you’ve already dealt with that.

Which routers are affected?

As far as anyone knows, these are the only routers which are affected:

  • Linksys E1200
  • Linksys E2500
  • Linksys WRVS4400N
  • Mikrotik RouterOS for Cloud Core Routers: Versions 1016, 1036, and 1072
  • Netgear DGN2200
  • Netgear R6400
  • Netgear R7000
  • Netgear R8000
  • Netgear WNR1000
  • Netgear WNR2000
  • QNAP TS251
  • QNAP TS439 Pro
  • Other QNAP NAS devices running QTS software
  • TP-Link R600VPN

Other sites have suggested updating firmware, changing the admin password, and disabling remote management. I say, nutz to all of that. Just replace the thing. None of these were expensive routers to begin with and they’re probably 5 years old or more. We have a decent selection at Solid Signal for you to choose from. But it really brings up an important question: How safe is your router anyway?

Not as safe as you think…

Your average consumer router costing under $100 is not going to be that secure. It’s probably based on open-source software and is relatively easy to hack. By “relatively” I mean that most mass-market routers have some sort of hacker guide available online. Google your router’s model number and the word “hack” and you’ll probably find an easy guide. (Again, I’ll wait.)

Sometimes these hacks require being in the same room, but more often than not they can be done remotely. You’ve made it easy if you haven’t turned off remote management and you haven’t changed the default password, but even with those protections there’s no guarantee.

Your typical consumer router just isn’t built to military-grade standards for protection. Doing that would require a lot more money, and likely drive the router up past the point where you would be willing to pay for it.

…but possibly safe enough.

Chances are no one, not even the Russians, wants to take the time to hack into your router. There are millions upon millions of routers out there and yours is only one. You probably won’t be singled out.

Plus, if you’ve set up your home network properly, there are firewalls in place designed to stop people from getting at your personal data. Those aren’t foolproof either, but combined with good antimalware protection and other common-sense protections, they’ll probably stop the few attacks that are likely to come your way. I’m not saying you’re completely safe but you’re probably more likely to be physically broken into than virtually. In other words it’s more likely that someone will smash a window and come in your house than it is that someone will try to crack your router wide open from somewhere in Azerbaijan.

The best security…

is to store the things you want to be really safe, completely offline. Use flash drives or DVDs or whatever physical media you want, but move all the important stuff off your network completely. It’s a little inconvenient but in some cases, it might actually be worth it.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.