The thing about passwords is that they lull you into a false sense of security. Take for example your WiFi network. Most WiFi networks are supposed to be protected by a WiFi Protected Access password. The WPA, on paper, acts like a guard that prevents other people from accessing your WiFi network. It is essentially a password for your WiFi network.
But like other passwords, the WPA could be hacked. Sure it is a robust encryption system that requires a minimum of eight characters, making it more difficult to guess, even for hacking software. But that is not the issue here.
The issue is that hackers could easily get in the middle of your device and your Wi-Fi router. Here is how it works:
- You connect to the Internet through your device, which in turn connects to the Wi-Fi router.
- The Wi-Fi router and your device communicate back and forth to authorize your device. This authorization involves having your device send a packet to the router that contains your SSID and your password.
- The hacker has a software and tools that would essentially capture these authorization packets that contain your password.
Think of it as passing notes in class. You pass a note with your gym locker combination to John, only that before John gets the note, it was intercepted by Hackie who reads the note and gets your combination and proceeds to steal the contents of your locker.
If you want specific step-by-step guides to hacking into a Wi-Fi network, you could do a simple Google search and come up with several guides, complete with what software to download and where to buy the necessary equipment, if there is one needed.
Other people make it so easy by not changing the default SSID and password that their routers came with. For example, Linksys routers often use “admin”, “administrator” and “Comcast” as user names and then “1234” or “admin” as passwords. This information is freely available on the Internet, and if you do not change the default credentials on your router, then people could just search the net and know your user name and password. You might just as well print it on a piece of paper and tape it to your door with a free Wi-Fi sign over it.
Even if you do change your password, hackers could still hack into your network by doing the process described above. Mind you, these tools are readily available in Radio Shack and other electronic store and there are free software online that could help people hack into Wi-Fi networks easily.
How to Protect Yourself
As we have mentioned above, WPA and WPA2 protocols are quite robust, making it more difficult for a hacker to get into your network. If that is not enough, here are some things that you can do to keep them out:
- Turn on your MAC address filtering. Each device you have would have its own MAC, or Media Access Control, address. You can specify which devices are allowed to use the network, effectively blocking out unauthorized devices.
- Set up your router’s firewalls. Most routers have their own firewall programs that you can turn on from the settings menu. The firewall would help you keep out unauthorized users.
- Make your network invisible. Make sure that your Wi-Fi is not discoverable so that your router would not be broadcasting your SSID. Only those that know your SSID will be able to connect to your WiFi network, so disabling discoverability is a good way to thwart would-be hackers. Of course, you should also change the default SSID.
- Assign IP addresses to your devices. If you know how to do it, you could assign IP addresses to each of your devices. Your router has a setting that lets you set static IP addresses. Copy the IP addresses that your devices are using and put them in.
These are the basic things you need to know as far hacking into routers and protecting your own network are concerned.
Photo courtesy of todbot.