One of the biggest mistakes individuals and small nonprofit organizations make is buying an internet router from the store (or online), setting it up, plugging in their computers (or connecting to it wirelessly), and not changing any of the security settings on the router.
In a previous blog post, I wrote about the differences between routers, switches, and firewalls, and why most organizations need all 3 kinds of devices. But in this blog post, I will discuss the basics of why you should secure your computer network, and how to do so on home-grade equipment.
Most home grade equipment that you can buy in retail stores come with default usernames and passwords for management purposes. Even more scary, security researchers have discovered how people from all over the internet could gain unauthorized, “backdoor” access to certain models of routers. One such discovery was really recent!
Imagine with me that someone with malicious intent, such as a black hat hacker (I should point out here that not all “hackers” are bad), gains access to your network through a virus that is installed on a local computer, or gains access by connecting to your wireless network (both scenarios are very possible).
If this incident occurred, and you did not change the default usernames & passwords on your router, then the hacker could very easily login to your router and change important settings crucial to the security of every computer on your network, such as:
- Your wireless password
- DNS settings (Said another way, the hacker could change how your router connects to the internet, thereby redirecting your internet traffic to malicious websites without you knowing the difference)
- Even the administrative password on the router itself
Common (Default) Administrative Settings
If you don’t know what your router password is, or if you haven’t changed your router’s password, chances are, you can login with one of these combinations (Username/Password):
- Admin / admin
- Admin / password
- Administrator / admin
- Administrator / administrator
- Admin / (blank password)
- Administrator / (blank password)
“But how do I access the login screen?”
Great question! Your router is also known as your computer’s “Gateway” – it acts as the “gateway” to the outside world (the internet). It also acts as your internal “DHCP server” and assigns a different IP address to each computer in your network. To find out what your computer’s IP address is, you can follow these instructions (for Microsoft Windows):
- Go to Start -> Run (or search) – the “search” bar on newer versions of Windows, through Windows 7, is right about the Start button after you’ve clicked on it
- Type in “cmd” and hit enter
- In the black screen, type “ip config /all” and hit enter
- You’ll see a lot of output after you hit enter. Look for a line that beings with “IPv4 Address” and that will be your IP address.
- In the same section as your IPv4 address, you’ll also see a label for your “Default Gateway” – that is your router’s IP address.
Once you’ve identified your router’s IP address, you can simply type that address into an address bar.
Most often, home grade routers have the default IP address of: 192.168.1.1. If that is what your router’s IP address is, then simply open up your internet browser (Google Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer), and type in: http://192.168.1.1 and hit enter.
After you’ve logged in, you can easily change your router’s password (not to be confused with your wireless key). You can also configure your router to use custom DNS settings, such as the free “Family Shield” service provided by OpenDNS to help block inappropriate content.
If you need further assistance in securing your network, give us a call, or contact us, and we’d be happy to help.