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The router, a possible source of insecurity

At home, appliances as reliable as the computer, router, game console, phone or tablet often communicate by wire or wirelessly. The rule behind this is the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), which is extremely useful because it allows the user to easily play favorite music or videos and use internet services without effort or trouble. But keep in mind that the router can be a gateway for external threats.

From experience, we know the factory specifications of UPnP routers can be applied erroneously, punching holes in computer security. But the scope was unknown until last January, when US-CERT, the U.S. government agency for computing, issued a stern warning. It was based on a study showing that, worldwide, about 50 million networkable devices could be the target of a foreign attack. This included printers, video cameras, media servers, smart TVs or any home routers used to connect to the internet.

The warning caused general alarm. In Germany, people wanted to know if computer accessories were affected, something determinable through checking the journal offered by Heise Security and data protection agency of the federal state of Lower Saxony (LFD). The test revealed that between 80 and 90 percent of the routers used in Germany are not affected by the problems reported. However, Thorsten Dietrich, the BSI, advised to pay attention to the router; it represents home network security.

The German state security agency (BSI) advised users to disable the router’s UPnP function, used to direct automatic communication between the accessories, either wired network, wireless or Bluetooth WLAN, and in many cases is even necessary. UPnP function was developed for local area networks (LAN). But if a UPnP device is accessible from the outside, then the user can no longer control what happens and won’t notice if someone takes over data or settings. The object of the UPnP technology is to facilitate work for the user, remaining hidden in the background.

Experts recommend automatic updating enabled browsers and to take ISP warnings about security holes in your computer seriously, because there are always new forms of vulnerability. If your browser does not have an automatic update function, regularly consult the manufacturer’s website to see if there is new firmware available.

In the standard configuration of a wireless router, there are many uncertain factors, so the first thing to do is change the password for the installation menu that came factory router. Like the IP address that leads to the menu, the default password is the user manual and therefore available to any person. Also determine whether the firewall , which protects from attacks from the outside, is enabled. Experts also advise to change the name of the wireless point (SSID), inventing a name that does not reveal the user’s identity and location. The WLAN key that controls the wireless access point should also be renamed. Experts recommend WPA2 encryption and choosing a code of at least 20 characters with mixed uppercase and lowercase letters and numbers and signs include random.

Computer security expert Chester Wisniewski recently described in his blog, Naked Security, the importance of reliable factory upgrades. Given the fact that some firms react too slowly or not at all to complaints of security holes in their products, the user has no choice but to disconnect service. And sometimes that does not work on some routers, while others have a disable feature that lacks good account effectiveness. The UPnP standard, Wisniewski said, allows consoles like the xBox, for example, open a hole in the firewall to allow the user to play, but also allows malicious programs to open gaps for easy access to criminals. The criticism goes further. Some UPnP routers are designed to circumvent security measures without the approval or knowledge of the person controlling the attachment. Therefore, the expert concludes: “In my judgment, the UPnP function is one of the worst ideas that has ever been”.

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